Sierra Vista Herald: Working Together To Improve Border Security In Arizona

 In In the News

Sierra Vista Herald
Sheriff Mark Dannels
9/30/2018

In the 34 years that I’ve worked in Cochise County, I have personally witnessed the evolution of border security.

My deputies serve on the front lines, working to safeguard ranchers, farmers and citizens who call this beautiful place “home.”

Unfortunately, for far too many of the families living along the border, the past two decades have been an insufferable experience fraught with chaos and at times, fear. There was a time when relative peace and harmony existed. Illegal border crossers came looking for temporary work, and afterwards returned to their country of origin. They posed little to no danger to the citizens at all.

But that all changed when ruthless and dangerous transnational criminal organizations took control of all smuggling operations and staging points in Mexico adjacent to the international border.

Unlawful crossings into our country and state are strictly controlled to bolster profit margins and maximize success. These illegal activities have dire consequences for our communities, and are all the more reason to reject the recent and reckless calls to “abolish ICE.”

As more attention has been paid to the new threats coming from the cartels, one area has been sorely lacking: collaboration. That changed after Gov. Ducey took office.

In 2013, my office created the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement unit (SABRE). In 2015, Gov. Ducey created Arizona’s Border Strike Force.

Together, working with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners, we’ve been able to develop a multi-agency approach over the last few years to further secure our borders and keep our communities safe.

With this approach, I’m proud to report that the words “progress” and “success” are two terms we hear much more often.

These efforts began in 2015, when our governor shared his vision to create a partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement that includes the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to increased intelligence sharing and many other benefits, Arizona’s Border Strike Force funds 75 percent of the salary of five sheriff’s office deputies. That’s five additional deputies in our county who are out there taking drugs off our streets, arresting human traffickers, and catching dangerous criminals.

Eliminating these resources, as the Democrat candidate for governor has called for, would reverse many of the gains we’ve made to secure our border.

As someone who’s personally witnessed how the addition of these resources has made Cochise County and our border communities a safer place to live, I stand in strong opposition to eliminating them.

The governor has not only listened to ranchers, business leaders and rural law enforcement — he’s delivered for us as well.

Under Ducey’s leadership, Arizona invested $1 million dollars in 2015 to build a “Regional Communications Center” in Cochise County. The facility, which is fully operational, provides dispatch services to numerous first responder agencies in southeastern Arizona.

As the president of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association, I also appreciate the governor’s support for local law enforcement and sheriffs. When he made the decision earlier this year to deploy National Guard troops to the border, my office was contacted to discuss policy and deployment.

This partnership is an excellent example of collaboration to seek best practices for those we serve.

Whether the issue is school safety, community relations or efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, our 15 county sheriffs have had a seat at the table with the governor to express our recommendations. This is exactly the type of teamwork that saves lives that should be a model the rest of the nation can learn from.

Arizona should be proud of its leadership in efforts to secure the border. These efforts have made our state and country safer, as well as helped restore faith and trust from our citizens and visitors.

We may not always agree on everything. But one thing is for sure — when elected officials and agencies work together across the state, we are all safer.

Mark J. Dannels is sheriff of Cochise County.

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