In a stretch of barren desert alongside Interstate 8 near Gila Bend that has become a corridor for human and drug smuggling, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and about 100 men staged a crime-suppression operation Thursday.RTWT.
Arpaio brought with him a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun that can shoot accurately up to a mile as a display of the kind of force he would use if anyone hurts a deputy.
"I am trying to send a message to Mexico," he said. "We will not take anyone hurting our deputies. We will fight back."
The 7-year-old gun has not yet been used, Arpaio said. "It is more for defense." Nor have any of his deputies yet been harmed in a border scuffle.
"We have been very lucky," he said.
The sheriff said criminals smuggling drugs and immigrants across the border are now carrying AK-47s along the swath of desert that is seldom patrolled. The Barry M. Goldwater Range is used for shooting and cannot be patrolled without permission from the United States Air Force. That gives smugglers an easy path for entry, Arpaio said.
Often smugglers cut through Vekol Valley east of Gila Bend, then come north to vehicles waiting on Interstate 8, he said. Those usually head to Phoenix on back roads.
The volunteers and paid deputies arrived in about 20 vehicles to stage the first-ever suppression operation in the desert.
By 8 p.m. Thursday, the deputies had made two arrests at traffic stops, but those were outside their staging area. One was nabbed for a criminal traffic violation, and the other had a warrant for a criminal traffic violation.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Sheriff Joe Arpaio Launches Human Smuggling and Crime Suppression Sweep in Arizona Desert: .50-Caliber Machine Gun 'Sends Message to Mexico'
At Arizona Republic, "Joe Arpaio Launches 16th Immigration Sweep in Desert":