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In Congress, CNN, Phoenix Mayor Gordon Calls for Increased Federal Support for Federal'Local Partnerships to Disrupt Criminal Activity along Mexican Border

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
April 6, 2009

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called for increased federal support for the partnerships his city has undertaken with federal law enforcement agencies to disrupt serious criminal activity relating to drug trafficking, gun smuggling, drug smuggling, human smuggling, and kidnapping in March 24 testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. The hearing, chaired by Subcommittee Chairman Alan Mollohan (WV), focused on the response of federal law enforcement to U.S.'Mexico border violence.

Among the specific federal'city partnerships Gordon described:

  • Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are embedded on a full'time basis in the Phoenix Police Department, where they provide intelligence and access to federal databases and partner with Phoenix police officers on the street to go after violent criminals.

  • Operation Blank Check is a year'long investigation that resulted in felony indictments of 183 individuals and the arrest of hardcore gang members from 22 different gangs who trafficked in drugs and fraudulent checking schemes – totaling more than $3 million – to fund their operations.

  • Operation En Fuego was responsible for the break'up of a major Phoenix'based smuggling organization and the indictment of 35 individuals on felony charges related to the human smuggling of more than 10,000 individuals.

  • Operation Tumbleweed disrupted and stopped the illegal activities – including drug smuggling, human smuggling, and money laundering – of 20 different organizations by following a common money trail that went back to all of them.

Partnering with Phoenix in these efforts were the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Border Patrol; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Attorney; U.S. Postal Inspectors; and state and local agencies.

Gordon urged the Subcommittee to provide continued political and increased financial support for the partnership activities, and pledged to “use every cent of every dollar in the most effective way possible.” He explained that his city has had to reduce its 2010 budget by nearly one'third and could not spare public safety in these reductions. He also talked about the “staggering” cost of border'related crime to his city – the cost of equipment, hiring new officers, overtime, long'term undercover operations, and surveillance planes.

Gordon was accompanied at the hearing by Phoenix’s Public Safety Manager Jack Harris. Other witnesses included Bill Newell, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Phoenix Division, and Joseph Arabit, Special Agent in Charge, DEA El Paso Division.

CNN Interview

In a March 27 interview with CNN, Gordon said that the Mexican drug war is affecting almost every city in the U.S. Discussing his testimony with CNN’s Kiran Chetry, he said, “I went to the Congress and I said it’s got to stop now. We’ve got to have more boots on the ground, and in the cities. We need more technology. This is a real war, where our individuals, whether they are police officers, federal agents, or innocent residents are going to get hurt.”

Gordon explained that despite the problems his city is facing as a result of the Mexican drug war, Phoenix has actually seen a decline in crime, including homicides, in the last year and a half. He attributed that decline to the partnership between the Phoenix Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies to go “after the heads of the snakes, the syndications, the organizations and not waste resources on…nickel bag buyers or day laborers.” He referenced his Congressional testimony and the need for increased federal support, cautioning that cities cannot continue to fund these activities.