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Crime Trackers: Visiting sheriff from Cowlitz Co. gets border pe - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: Visiting sheriff from Cowlitz Co. gets border perspective from local rancher

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COCHISE COUNTY- The opioid epidemic is reaching every community in the country. That's why the National Sheriffs' Association is endorsing a unique initiative that brings sheriffs' from around the country to Cochise County. It's called Ground Zero: From our backyard to your backyard. It was a two-day tour of the border.  The first day it was from the air. The second day it was on the ground. Local ranchers weighed in on the problem.

The fence in Naco, Arizona separates the United States and Mexico.   It’s only 60 feet away from the Ladd Ranch.  Some say it's a thoroughfare for drug smuggling. The owner, John Ladd said, “As soon as they get over that fence, they're on me.” The Ladd family owns 16,000 acres and runs 500 head of cattle.  The family has been in business for 121 years. John Ladd said, he's had dead bodies on his property, been burglarized, and even had his vehicles stolen.

He pointed out some of the smuggling trails along his property.  He admits at one time groups crossed in droves through their property.  “Now, it's a group of two or three. That's how the cartels evolved, is that two or three guys are a lot harder to see than 50 or 60, and they all wear full camouflage and they all wear booties so they don't leave footprints.”

The rancher told Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson and his Undersheriff Marc Gilchrist  about the challenges he faces everyday living on the border. The law enforcement officers are in Cochise County to learn how drug smuggling that originates in Mexico, has an impact in their community.  Sheriff Nelson says, "My county does have the highest per capita number of drug overdoses in the state." From 2011 to 2014, Cowlitz County had the highest rate of heroin related deaths.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said, “Just in the heroin opiate crisis,  91 people a day die in this country.   90 percent of the heroin comes through the southern border.” John Ladd added, “Every community in America is having problems with drugs, especially with the heroin and opiates.”

His frustration? He said even with a fence, technology and border patrol agents, smuggling still happens. “They do not place agents where they should. They don't do anything to stop it.” Ladd states.

Locally, Ladd has proposed ideas as to how to stem the smuggling flow.  However, those ideas have continually collided with one bigger long running problem. “Washington doesn't care. They send directions to sector. Sector sends them to the local station,and whether they agree with what we're doing in the Naco station,  it doesn't matter.  They're getting their orders from Washington," states Ladd.

As day two of the tour winded down, Sheriff Dannels told his counterpart from Cowlitz County, to take back what he learned. "Take it back to his federal leadership and get it back to Washington D.C., because every federal leader can actually understand it better.  It's hope for us on the border and hope for their community.  That's very important to us,”  Sheriff Nelson added,   “I had some conversation before I came down here with a couple of our federal legislators and said, when I get back we're going to chat.”

So now Sheriff Nelson has a new perspective about the drug problems that start in Ladd’s backyard and end up in his backyard. 

So far,15 sheriffs' from around the country have signed up for the border tour.

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