Crime Trackers

Nov 20, 2012 12:00 AM by Lupita Murillo

Crime Trackers: Decoy vehicles keep the 'heat' off drug loads

ARIZONA - A growing trend on Arizona highways: drug cartels using decoy vehicles to draw the heat of law enforcement officers away from their cargo.

One Arizona Department of Public Safety officer went through some scary moments, a high speed chase with multiple "heat" vehicles. Officer Dave Callister says, "Arizona is by far the most dangerous, especially the I -10 corridor."

Callister, a seasoned patrol officer, was looking for drug smugglers and "heat vehicles," while News 4 Tucson's Lupita Murillo rode along with him on his I-10 patrol. "We look for people who are committing obvious traffic violations - based on our experience on what they are doing to try and divert the attention of off the vehicle they are escorting," Officer Callister says.

He says cartels will stop at nothing to get their drugs from the highway to the streets. "The tactics lately have been much more aggressive to the point where they're jeopardizing the safety of the officers," he says.

Just last month, a truck was loaded with $100,000 worth of marijuana. As the officer tried to pull it over, he looked in his rearview mirror and saw two "heat vehicles" trying to keep him from getting to the truck. "One of them attempted to get me to rear end him by attempting to brake very hard. Which almost caused me to collide in the back of him," Officer Callister says. The second vehicle moved into his lane almost ramming him, boxing him in. "It was at a point where it was so dangerous," he says. Officer Callister called for backup, and he managed to go after the driver of the second heat vehicle.

After the driver was caught, she told investigators that, "she was doing what she was doing or she was going to have her family harmed if she didn't harm me to keep me off the load vehicle," Officer Callister says.

Bart Graves is the communication specialist with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. "To be aggressive like this with law enforcement on this side of the border, it's pretty outrageous," he says.

In all the officers seized three weapons, over 200 pounds of marijuana and arrested 7 people.

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