A one-stop center that would zero in on all border-related crimes could soon be opening in the county, the first of its kind operated by a sheriff’s office along the Southwest border of the United States.
The facility — to be aptly named the Border Operations Center — will be run by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and will likely be located between Sierra Vista and Hereford, ground zero of where most of the area’s border-related issues occur daily, said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels on Thursday.
“I’m very excited about this,” Dannels said. “We requested it from the governor and it’s coming to fruition.”
Dannels said the office received a contract from the state for $5 million after submitting a proposal for a facility that would solely focus on border-related crime and other issues.
Dannels said he must go before the county’s Board of Supervisors on Nov. 15 to get the panel’s approval to accept the money from the governor’s office. The $5 million granted by the state will cover the purchase of a building, as well as the staff that will be working in the operations center 24/7.
Outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey has long supported Dannels’ efforts to stem the tide of undocumented migrants crossing the border illegally, as well as the sheriff’s fight against the cartels’ constant recruitment via social media of individuals who they pay to come into Cochise County and transport migrants to Tucson and Phoenix. The cartels are paying drivers — referred to as load car drivers because undocumented persons are called “loads” — almost $3,000 for every migrant that a load car driver can jam into a vehicle.
The sheriff said the new center, which he hopes will have a staff of about 50 people, will be the one-stop shop, so to speak, where all border-related crimes will be tackled by law enforcement and civilian personnel.
“The center will have a human trafficking component, a financial crimes section, and a camera room where the National Guard can monitor border activity,” Dannels said. “All of our special ops will go into this facility along with our (other law enforcement) partners.
“This will be the first center of its kind along the Southwest border where local law enforcement will collectively work together with all our partners, including federal government, to address illegal border crimes.”
The sheriff’s office newly-created Criminal Interdiction Team and the Safe Streets Task Force — both units focus on border-related offenses — will be housed at the new facility. Members of the Arizona National Guard sent by Ducey last year to help the sheriff’s office monitor the cameras placed along the border also will be working at the center, Dannels said.
The Border Operations Center will not be solely for border crime in Cochise County, Dannels said.
“We’ll be working with other sheriffs concerning human smuggling and abuse of children,” he said.
A structure with an adjacent warehouse has already been identified as the place where the sheriff’s office would like to open the Border Operations Center, Dannels said. He could not reveal the address, but said it’s between Sierra Vista and Hereford.
“The place is pretty much move-in ready,” he said. “We want to get this up and running as soon as possible.
“When you place your special ops all under one roof, “it’s a win-win.”
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