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Most AZ Border Strike Force Work Was Done Outside Border Counties

The Border Strike Force has been a favored talking point of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. It featured prominently in his reelection bid in 2018. It was used as a talking point again in 2022, as border security became an issue for Republicans in the election cycle. According to records disclosed after a legal battle with the Department of Public Safety, the Border Strike Force is a misnomer, reports the Arizona Republic. For one thing, most of the work carried out by the force occurs outside Arizona's four border counties. The Border Strike Force abandoned the idea of targeting a particular area for a strike. Instead, it relied on traffic stops along highways and freeways. While Ducey has portrayed the Border Strike Force as a unit charged with disrupting cartels, records show that more than 60 percent of its cases do not involve the work of any Border Strike Force members. Over the summer, Ducey announced the creation of a national Border Strike Force made up of states with Republican governors, with only one, Texas, sharing a border with Mexico. The records do not show much investigative work regarding cartels. Much of the activity involved finding drugs during routine traffic stops. There is nothing in the records to show that the impressive amounts of drugs seized during the seven years of the Border Strike Force would not have been seized with normal trooper activity. Although some operations resulted in impressive drug seizures, there also appeared to be a lot of dry fishing expeditions. One operation involved troopers driving on an interstate, pausing every mile and getting out and looking for illegal activity in the desert.

The Republic had reported in 2018 that the Border Strike Force took credit for drug seizures far from the state’s border with Mexico and for drug seizures measured in fractions of a pound. Records on the force were released to the newspaper on a judge’s order. Until then, the hstate had said tat the records didn’t exist. The thousands of pages of records show in minute detail the day-by-day activities of troopers and detectives identified as members of the Border Strike Force. Some county sheriffs had suggested that every traffic stop that involved seizures was credited to the Border Strike Force. The state has said the geographic focus of the Border Strike Force includes the counties of Pinal and Maricopa, which includes the metro Phoenix region. It also has “satellite” resources in two eastern Arizona counties, Graham and Greenlee. The Border Strike Force has claimed credit for stops in the state’s northernmost counties, including areas that encompass the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert. A spokesperson for Ducey, C.J. Karamargin, said that the benefit of the Border Strike Force was its impressive drug seizures. "I think most Arizonans would say good job,” Karamargin said. “whether or not they are part of a Strike Force or a trooper whose on a traffic detail.”


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