Sunday, November 28, 2010

Smugglers' Paradise

For borderland residents living with the spillover from the Mexican drug wars, luck is a necessity, a commodity to be prized above all others, because it can spell the difference between a good day in paradise and a very bad one. Rob Krentz was working on his ranch near Douglas in Cochise County on March 27 when he ran into the wrong person and was shot to death. The killer, his identity and motive unknown, is still at large. Krentz lived in an area, the Chiricahua Corridor, that has been pounded by illegal aliens and drug-smugglers for years. The crossers are growing ever more aggressive, with break-ins, home invasions and late-night phone calls threatening retaliation against citizens fighting to shut down drug routes on their land. The federal government was ineffective, even condescending—until finally, shots were heard around the country. Something eerily similar is happening in another part of Arizona's border, the place Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says is "largely secure." Call this increasingly dangerous smuggling route the Peck Canyon Corridor. It begins west of Nogales, at border-crossing points stretching from the Pajarito Mountains and the Pajarita Wilderness all the way east to Cobre Ridge...But for David and Edith Lowell, the land is home. Since 1975, they've lived on the Atascosa Ranch headquartered in Peck Canyon, 11 miles from the Mexican border. "As far as I'm concerned, what Napolitano is saying is a flagrant lie," says David, 82, an explorer and geologist. "We have the misfortune of living on a very active smuggling route, and in the past year, we've had five shootings on my ranch, including a Border Patrolman. It annoys me the government can't stop these crimes from happening right under their nose. I'd say it's gotten significantly worse for us, rather than better." Jason Kane, who lives on the edge of the forest four miles south of the Lowells, says the situation at his house, in Agua Fria Canyon, has calmed down since August. But from January through July this year, he heard gunfire coming from the national forest on a regular basis, some of which could've been hunters. But on at least four occasions, Kane has heard what he's sure were gunfights involving one fully-automatic weapon firing, and another pumping back return fire. He has also seen ultra-light airplanes swooping over the mountains at night to drop drug loads, and he calls law enforcement often enough to keep the phone numbers of the Border Patrol and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office affixed to the family refrigerator...more

The author, Leo Banks, says that crime is down in the city:
"But in the remote areas east and west of the city, the much-feared spillover from the Mexican drug wars is occurring. Most troubling is the willingness of gangs to use lethal force against lawmen. Since late 2009, there have been at least five episodes in which Border Patrol has taken fire, and the Nogales police have faced similar danger. In early June, at Kino Springs east of the city, two off-duty policemen on horseback captured two drug loads in the same week, resulting in a threat against city police to "look the other way, or be targeted by snipers or by other means." As a result, Kirkham says his department is giving assault and ambush training to officers, and he has advised them to wear bulletproof vests if they ride horses at Kino Springs."
If you want to get a feel for what it's like living near the Border, and what we will be creating if the Bingaman wilderness bill becomes law, then read this excellent article.

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