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Oct 10, 2012 9:17 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Pinal anti-smuggling posse raises concerns

FLORENCE, Ariz. - Some of the largest Mexican Drug trafficking routes run through Pinal County, according to Sheriff Paul Babeau, and today he's taking more action to stop smugglers.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau announced the formation of an "Anti-Smuggling Posse" to help fight what he calls the "rampant" drug smuggling within the county.

The posse will be made up of unpaid volunteers, armed and trained by the Pinal County Sheriff's Department.

"What they become is a logistical support force," said Lieutenant Matt Thomas, Commander of the regional SWAT.

The unit will be tasked with providing surveillance and intelligence support to the Sheriff Department's regional SWAT team, focusing on back-up help during operations against the Mexican Drug Cartels.

"Such as if I need somebody to watch a certain area, rather than take a deputy out of the mix and put them at a location to watch, I can use one of our posse members to watcht that location," Thomas said.

However, some critics of the posse say the drug cartel routes in Western Pinal County could create a dangerous situation for volunteers.

"Especially in the middle of the night, the get caught up in friendly fire, somebody gets killed and yet these are fully trained federal officials...and we want to send out volunteers?" Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios told News 4 Tucson.

"It does concern me," Rios said.

However, the officials with the Sheriff's Department expressed that they are fully confident in the cabaility of it's posse members.

"So falling under the posse guise, their mission has been defined and we've been working on that over the past few months," Thomas said.

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