MODERN METHods: The evolving illegal drug business in the Borderland


POSTED: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 11:10pm

UPDATED: Friday, January 31, 2014 - 11:01am

Drugs are evolving, making detection harder and the drugs themselves even more dangerous.

"It's a constant battle,” that's what Detective Robert Horstman with the El Paso Sheriffs County Office called their fight against drugs because some of the drugs they're used to seeing are changing face. "It's really going from the things that we're used to seeing cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine to a lot of synthetic-based drugs."

Synthetic even liquefied drugs, like meth, can be even more dangerous than their original form because detectives say some can be absorbed through touch. "Not only is it dangerous but it's illegal."

And some users are taking these drugs in creative ways. Detective Horstman says he has seen people use e-cigarettes to smoke liquefied drugs. "By liquefying the meth they're able to conceal it in other areas that are in a solid form they won't be able to conceal it."

Because e-cigs are legal, Horstman said it is challenging for law enforcement agents to differentiate between legal and illegal drugs.

“Honestly I think it's pretty dumb,” Noe Baeza, an e-cigarette user answered after we asked him what he thought of liquid meth and other synthetic drugs.

Baeza uses vaporizers to wean him off a bad habit. "I started smoking it to go ahead and get off chewing tobacco, actually.” He tells us he's not surprised illegal drugs are finding their way into e-cigs. "I'm not. People always find a new way to do some kind of drug whether it be smoking it out of a vaporizer, crushing it up, snorting it, anything. They're going to find a way to get their high,” Baeza told us, "I think it is very dangerous."

That danger is a presence officers at the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry see daily and it's something they're trained to point out. "It's our officers working, interviewing these people, talking to them. In that, we have to be twice as creative when conducting these inspections and interviews,” Ruben Jauregui a Spokesman with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), El Paso said.

Customs and Border Protection officers also said they've seen their fair share of creativity in the way drugs are smuggled into the U.S.

"We have found it inside dog food, in that thinking that the dog is not going to alert with dog food,” "In soda cans, detergent containers, so they look for all kinds of different ways.” They're also seeing contraband on the backs of people of all ages. "They believe that a family unit, juvenile, senior citizens are not going to bring any attention or any suspicion."

While they may not be able to stop all drugs from entering the U.S., they have seized 21 pounds of meth in 2012, 155 pounds in 2013, and all-in-all 85 tons last year.

"We don't expect it but we expect it,” Jauregui explained.

While methods, smugglers, and drugs will always evolve. "Federal time is a long time and it'll be served, you know, straight through."

The punishment for drug smuggling and using is just as harsh.

CBP officers explained most of the drug smugglers they've seen are Mexican nationals who carry border crosser cards. If they're found guilty their cards are taken away even after serving time in prison. They also said minors who are caught smuggling drugs also face the same sentence if convicted.

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