Fighting fentanyl at the US border; Local 10 granted exclusive access to law enforcement operations

May 10th marks the first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day

Dangerous drugs, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl, are being seized in record numbers at U.S. southern border with Mexico.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Dangerous drugs, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl, are being seized in record numbers at U.S. southern border with Mexico.

Federal authorities say it is a relentless pursuit to keep those drugs from entering cities and towns nationwide, including South Florida.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents gave Local 10 News an exclusive look at how law enforcement is dealing with drug smuggling in the Tuscon sector, one of the busiest sections of the southwest border.

Underground work

Near the border town of Nogales, a special team of U.S. Border Patrol agents work to identify and shut down smuggling tunnels. Some are connected to existing drainage system and some have been dug by hand.

Fentanyl special (WPLG)

Binational cooperation between the U.S. Border Patrol and the Government of Mexico plays a vital role in border security. Efforts, such as tunnel sweeps, aim to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and prevent the smuggling of narcotics and humans across the border.

“Over the last 20 years we have been able to take back control of this drainage system,” said tunnel expert and Border Patrol Agent Christopher Brinkhoff. “We’re never going to stop them, obviously, from trying to smuggle narcotics and people, but our presence here makes it more difficult for them.”

Work at ports of entry

At the CBP Nogales Port of Entry, officers are using technology to stop drugs from being illicitly smuggled across the border while keeping the flow of commerce moving. Thousands of trucks full of food and goods move across the port every week.

Port Director Michael Humphries showed Local 10 reports of fentanyl pills recently discovered by officers stashed in engine compartments, spare tires, and even a slow cooker full of meat.

“How many fentanyl pills, so far, have you seized right here?” asked Local 10′s Janine Stanwood. “So we’re about 3 million for this fiscal year here in Nogales,” Humphries said.

Officers at the port use mirrors to inspect the undersides of vehicles, density meters to scan car parts, as well as drug sniffing canines and x-rays if they need to give cargo or passengers a second look.

There’s also a new state-of the art, lower-radiation x-ray being built so truckers can stay in their cabs while the trucks are being scanned. That will allow for more vehicles to be inspected in a day.

“What we do here at the border prevents all of that from making it to south Florida, to Ohio, to Kentucky, New York,” Humphries said. “We want to put a stop to this. We’re fathers. We’re mothers. We have nieces and nephews. We don’t want them to get a hold of any of that stuff.”

May 10th marks the first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day.

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About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.