Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New team of feds, deputies to tackle border crimes

Derek Jordan

A new team composed of both sheriff’s deputies and federal agents will focus on local and federal law enforcement issues along the border.

The 12-member Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABRE) Team will operate under the mission of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and is composed of four sheriff’s deputies, four U.S. Border Patrol Agents and four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The team gained final approval on Monday when an intergovernmental agreement between Cochise County and Border Patrol was approved by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.

Prior to that, Sheriff Mark Dannels was working behind the scenes with federal partners to get the effort up and running.

“Since January, we’ve been working on these plans, putting this together,” Dannels said.

The combination of both local and federal agents on the team will mean that it will have the flexibility to enforce all laws and investigate any issues dealing with the border.

“This border team will be dealing with any crimes that have a nexus to the border. With immigration obviously being one of them, we wanted that partner from Border Patrol and customs, whether we’re working stash houses inside the county or working a smuggling group coming right from the border. So we’ll have both aspects covered with customs and Border Patrol,” the sheriff said.

“If we have an immigration issue or if there is a federal nexus that needs to be addressed, we have that authority on this team. If it’s a state or local law that is being broken, and we need to go that way, based on our prosecution authority, we’ll go that way.”

Beyond that, the sheriff’s office also played an active role in the selection of the federal agents selected for the team.

“We sat on their appraisal boards,” Dannels said. “We want the best to be on this team. We want people that care about people and understand the needs of the people of this county.”

Part of the team’s primary objective is to serve as a response team to crimes related to the border, such as burglaries and stolen vehicles, as well as respond to concerns of ranchers and other residents along the border.

“Their job is not to sit on the border. That is a federal problem,” he said. “Their job is to be a direct response team to the community. Working the open seams, the seams the ranchers and the homeowners in this county have identified that are causing them harm and great concern.”

To that end, the SABRE Team will often work in conjunction with the sheriff’s office’s Ranch Patrol, which serves as “the voice, eyes and ears of the ranchers.”

“The intel they gather from the rural parts of our county is provided to this border team for intel operations and setting up details,” Dannels said.

County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chairman Richard Searle said the partnerships created through this effort would benefit the entire community.

“I’m fully supportive of the agencies working together, because together they can accomplish so much more,” Searle said.

Dannels agreed, saying “When law enforcement can start working together and sharing intelligence, especially when you have a task force like this, the citizens will benefit. That’s what this is all about, that we can direct our focus to make our communities better.” 

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