Department of Justice Announces Resources for Fight Against Mexican Drug Cartels
WASHINGTON – Today Deputy Attorney General David Ogden announced increased efforts and reallocation of DOJ personnel to combat Mexican drug cartels in the United States and to help Mexican law enforcement battle cartels in their own country. Deputy Attorney General Ogden was joined in announcing a comprehensive response to the situation on the Southwest border by Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.
"For more than a quarter century, U.S. law enforcement agencies have recognized that the best way to fight the most sophisticated and powerful criminal organizations is through intelligence-based investigations to target the greatest threats," said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. "The Department’s Mexican Cartel Strategy confronts those cartels as criminal organizations. As we’ve found with other large criminal groups, if you take their money and lock up their leaders, you can loosen their grips on the vast organizations they use to carry out their criminal enterprises. The Department of Justice is committed to taking advantage of all available resources to target the Mexican cartels and to help our Mexican counterparts in their courageous effort to take on these criminal organizations."
Today the United States announced it will be investing $700 million this year in enhancing Mexican law enforcement and judicial capacity and working closely to coordinate efforts against the cartels. The Department of Justice, through the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), the Criminal Division and the Office of Justice Programs, will work to investigate and prosecute cartel members for their illegal activities in the United State and with law enforcement colleagues to disrupt illegal flows of weapons and bulk cash to Mexico.
The Mexican Cartel Strategy, led by the Deputy Attorney General, uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together all law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. The Department is increasing its focus on investigations and prosecutions of the southbound smuggling of guns and cash that fuel the violence and corruption and attacking the cartels in Mexico itself, in partnership with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP).
DEA, already the largest U.S. drug enforcement presence in Mexico with 11 offices in that country, is placing 16 new positions in its Southwest border field divisions. With this increase, 29 percent of DEA’s domestic agent positions (1,180 agents) are now allocated to its Southwest border field divisions. DEA is also forming four additional Mobile Enforcement Teams (METs) to specifically target Mexican methamphetamine trafficking operations and associated violence, both along the border and in U.S. cities impacted by the cartels.
ATF is increasing its efforts by relocating 100 personnel to the Houston Field Division in the next 45 days as part of a new ATF intelligence-driven effort, known as Gunrunner Impact Teams (GRITs). The teams will focus ATF’s violent crime-fighting and firearms trafficking expertise, along with its regulatory authority and strategic partnerships to combat violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
As part of the Recovery Act funding, ATF received $10 million for Project Gunrunner efforts, aimed at disrupting arms trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico, to include hiring 25 new special agents, six industry operations investigators, three intelligence research specialists and three investigative analysts. The funding will establish three permanent field offices, dedicated to firearms trafficking investigations, in McAllen, Texas; El Centro, Calif.; and Las Cruces, N.M (including a satellite office in Roswell, N.M.). Project Gunrunner has resulted in ATF referring more than 1,500 defendants for prosecution involving more than 12,000 weapons.
ATF will also continue its eTrace initiative with Mexican officials, which allows law enforcement agencies to identify trafficking trends of drug trafficking organizations and other criminal organizations funneling guns into Mexico from the United States, as well as to develop investigative leads in order to stop firearms traffickers and straw purchasers (people who knowingly purchase guns for prohibited persons) before they cross the border. In FY08, Mexico submitted more than 7,500 recovered guns for tracing, showing that most originated in Texas, Arizona and California.
The FBI is stepping up its efforts along the Southwest border by creating a Southwest Intelligence Group (SWIG), which will serve as a clearinghouse of all FBI activities involving Mexico. The FBI will also increase its focus on public corruption, kidnappings and extortion relating to Southwest border issues.
Already, the FBI has undertaken successful initiatives in Mexico and Central America, including the Central American Fingerprint Exchange (CAFÉ) initiative. The FBI will continue this initiative, which was developed to collect, store, and integrate biometric data from El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and the Mexican state of Chiapas into a central database accessible to U.S. law enforcement, as well as the Transnational Anti-Gang initiative, which coordinates the sharing of gang intelligence between the U.S. and El Salvador.
USMS has stepped-up its efforts along the Southwest border, deploying 94 additional Deputy U.S. Marshals during the last eight months and sending four additional deputies to Mexico City to assist the Marshals Service Mexico City Foreign Field Office.
USMS is increasing its efforts in the Southwest border region under the Mexico Investigative Liaison Program, a cross-border violent fugitive apprehension initiative where USMS personnel, through daily contact with Mexican law enforcement, provide a rapid international response to law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border in the apprehension of fugitives who commit crimes and flee across the international border.
Twenty-five new Criminal Investigators-Asset Forfeiture Specialists have been placed in USMS asset forfeiture units in the field. The new positions are unique in that they will be solely dedicated to the USMS Asset Forfeiture Division and will support U.S. Attorneys Offices and investigative agencies in investigations of cartels and other large-scale investigations.
In addition, DOJ’s Organized Drug Enforcement Task Forces Program (OCDETF) is adding analyst personnel to its strike force capacity along the Southwest border and the Office of Justice Programs will be investing $30 million in stimulus funding to assist with state and local law enforcement to combat narcotics activity coming through the southern border and in high intensity drug trafficking areas. State and local law enforcement organizations along the border can apply for COPS and Byrne Justice Assistance grants from the $3 billion provided for those programs in the stimulus package.