Border to Border: The war on drugs

Hundreds of thousands of drugs are seized every year nationwide across our borders.

Despite Border Agents and officers efforts and technology, criminal organizations are getting smarter and drugs are still making it into the United States. In the final part of our Border to Border: A tale of two crossings series,we take a look at how drugs from the Mexican border are coming into North Dakota.

In the last year, the Office of Field Operations has found nearly half a million pounds of drugs at ports of entry in the country.

Border Patrol agents have confiscated nearly 300,000 pounds of drugs.

Those drugs include cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Our state continues to fight a war on drugs. Local law enforcement is finding more meth, heroin and pills than ever before.

Stopping drug trafficking is like finding a needle in a haystack.

“Narcotics seizures are made every day. Anywhere from personal use, we mean just a few ounces to pounds," said Ruben Jauregui, Office of Field Operations spokesperson.

Drugs smuggled across the border are distributed throughout the United States.

“We are part of the pipeline, we’re just the end of it. So it starts like in Mexico and it eventually finds its way here," said a ND BCI agent.

Criminal organizations like the gang “La Linea” are making a footprint across the El Paso sector.

“Whether it be the smuggling of people, trafficking of people, narcotics, hard drugs, it’s all tied to the same criminal organizations. Nothing happens along the border without the criminal organization being involved," said Mario Escalante, El Paso Border Patrol.

Their m.o. constantly shifts.

“Narcotics aren’t only found in vehicles. But also within merchandise. We also see it taped to the people, you know on their bodies [as] pedestrians coming across," said Jauregui.

“All the area on the Mexican side is controlled by criminal organizations. A lot of them are generations of smugglers,” said Fidel Baca, El Paso Border Patrol.

Smugglers go to lengths to hide their cargo, so it goes under the noses of law enforcement.

The El Paso sector sees hides often, like marijuana in rims or within the floor board of cars, drugs within car bumpers and meth packaged in homemade wheels.

Some areas are easier targets for the cartels…where there’s only desert for miles.

“We’re always being observed. So if they see that an agent left an area, maybe to go to the restroom, to go to get a drink at the convenience store, an agent is supposed to come in and fill in that spot. But if in those two minutes there is an opening, they’re going to exploit them," said Baca.

Those tokens of opportunity are examples on how the drugs are coming from Mexico and making it all the way to communities like Bismarck, North Dakota.

"Starts like in Mexico and then eventually finds its way here. And using cities like Milwaukee, St. Paul, Chicago—those type of cities are just hubs. That then they branch out like spider webs to the local areas," said a BCI agent.

He says drug money made off of addiction in our state is funding terrorism in other parts of the world.

“Good people who never used to lock their doors to have to deal with narcoterrorism. Who ever thought in North Dakota you’d have to worry about a word like that as far as we are from the border," said a BCI agent.

In a room at the Metro Area Narcotics Task Force headquarters is evidence law enforcement is tackling the drug issue head on.

“Take away the dealers as they come here. Piece by piece. If we take away 500 pills off the streets, that’s 500 pills that aren’t going to trickle their way down to an addict," said a BCI agent.

Agents say the anecdote for the drug problems is to cut the demand. Law enforcement says this will curve suppliers.

Agents say drugs are killing our community and increasing the violence across the state.

Law enforcement say it’s difficult to see drug dealers from other areas taking advantage of North Dakotans.

Border Patrol agents and officers, along with North Dakota law enforcement, say they’re using all the technology and strategy in their power to stop drug trafficking.

As our five part series comes to an end we'd like to hear from you.

How do you think issues can be resolved on our borders and within our state?

Join the conversation on Facebook with #BorderToBorder.

We'd like to thank the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for talking to us and our local state agents for the exclusive access they provided us to tell these stories.