There have been some major drug busts recently in La Paz County. On Aug. 12, for example, a traffic stop on State Route 95 led to the seizure of eight pounds of methamphetamine and 1,300 pills believed to contain the potent opioid, fentanyl.

Despite these efforts, La Paz County Sheriff William Ponce estimated that not even 10 percent of the illegal drugs passing through the county are interdicted.

Ponce said La Paz County is in the middle of a major drug trafficking artery, and has been for a long time. Most of the drugs coming through the county are headed for elsewhere. The county is close to the border with Mexico, which is where much of the drug traffic originates. Highway 95 can take drug smugglers to Las Vegas, while Interstate 10 takes them to Los Angeles to the west and Phoenix and other major cities to the east.

“Drugs are running north and money is running south,” Ponce said.

The drug cartels have a lot of money and other resources to do what they do, Ponce said. By contrast, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have limited resources and limited funds to try to counter the cartels.

Ponce and Chief Deputy David Gray said a major problem now is the U.S. Border Patrol needs to spend so much time processing immigrants who are seeking asylum. Gray said there are often groups of 20, 30 or more people crossing the border, and this pulls the Border Patrol away from their other duties.

As an example, Gray said the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector had to process groups totaling more than 400 people from Friday, Sept. 10 to Monday, Sept. 13.

Ponce said many of these groups are being orchestrated by the drug cartels. The cartels will use immigrants to smuggle drugs as their price for getting them into the United States. He said human trafficking is as much a part of their operations as drug trafficking.

“The southern border has become a free-for-all,” he said. “The drug cartels are using this as a chance to get drugs across.”

La Paz County is just one of many drug trafficking arteries from the border with Mexico, Ponce said. The heaviest areas are the borders with Arizona and Texas, partly because those are the states with the longest borders with Mexico.

Gray said the cartels have divided up the border and each has its own section for getting drugs into the United States.

“This has been going on for as long as I can remember,” Ponce said.

La Paz County has been classified as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by federal authorities, and Ponce said this has helped them obtain more federal and state funds for drug interdiction efforts. The county has a narcotics task force, and Ponce praised their efforts.

Ponce also praised the cooperation between the different federal, state and local authorities in their drug interdiction efforts. They said the different agencies gather intelligence and share information with each other, which helps them all accomplish more with their limited resources.

It’s not easy to keep up with the cartels and what they do as they are always looking at how to do things better.

“It’s been evolving forever and it’s ever changing,” Ponce said.

The situation will remain, Ponce said, as long as there is a demand for illegal drugs in this country.

“We have a problem in our country,” he said.

Trying to cut the demand for drugs is something drug rehab organizations and anti-drug coalitions like the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment try to do. In La Paz County, PAACE uses peer pressure and education to try to keep young people away from drugs and violence.

According to the 2020 Arizona Youth Survey, organizations like PAACE are making some headway in how young people view drugs. The survey, which was conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission among 30,000 students from Grades 8 through 12 in 13 counties around the state, found young people are staying away from methamphetamine, prescription medications and opioids. However, the survey found marijuana use is up.

PAACE Director Randy Hartless said this could be due to a perception that marijuana is not as dangerous as other substances. He said this is something PAACE needs to address.

One of the major findings of the Youth Survey was something the PAACE has also noted:  one of the primary reasons why young people stay away from drugs is because they know their parents would not approve of them.

The La Paz County Sheriff’s Office can always use the public’s assistance in their efforts to combat criminal activity, and this also applies to drug trafficking. Ponce and Gray urged local residents to report suspicious activities to them.

“If you see something that doesn’t look normal, call the Sheriff’s Office,” they said.

The tip line for La Paz County Central Dispatch is 1-888-818-4911.


(6) comments

Michael Roth

The war on drugs is over, drugs won!

sam whittemore

you want to solve the drug problem? Daryl Gates had it right 30 yrs ago. take drug users out and shoot them. dont need a supply if there is no demand.


So, if your loved one became addicted to drugs you'd be ok with that?


Thank goodness you didn't win the election. For anyone to think drugs are winning this war has no concept of anything. This is that much less drugs that will be going out onto the streets killing people. Our Sheriff Department along with other agencies work hard to intercept these drug transports.

Michael Roth

Drugs are winning. Even the midget Sheriff admits he can’t even stop 10% of the drugs. Facts are facts even if you choose to ignore them, kind of how everyone ignores the Sheriff having sex while on duty.

sam whittemore

go choke yourself, normie. then put on a mask and get the vaxx

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