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Tech Drug Cartels Are Using Spy Technology to Avoid Border Patrols

Drug Cartels Are Using Spy Technology to Avoid Border Patrols

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First Posted: Jun 18, 2014 08:31 PM EDT
Drug cartels are dodging Border Patrol in an old school fashion.
Drug Cartels in Mexico have found an effective way to reduce encounters with the United States Border Control. They hire lookouts who use advanced technology while posted up in the mountains to detect where law enforcement is located. (Photo : U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Drug Cartels in Mexico have found an effective way to reduce encounters with the United States Border Control. They hire lookouts who use advanced technology while posted up in the mountains to detect where law enforcement is located.

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Pinal County authorities in Arizona say that the ongoing issue concerning the drug cartel lookouts is occurring 70 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The authorities arrested a group of men who were using cell phones, encrypted radios, walkie talkies, and binoculars while armed with guns in the hilltops, mountains, and caves.

The cartels have resorted to such recon efforts because the US Drug Enforcement Agency as well as the joint Mexico-US border surveillance has become so effective at tracking and capturing smugglers. It's unknown how many of these spies are posted up in the hills of Arizona, but the United States is equipped with lookout towers, floodlights, fixed and mobile video surveillance systems, motion sensors, tethered blimps, and drones. It can't be a problem for much longer.

The Pinal County sheriff's office conducted a multi-month investigation into such lookouts after they pulled over a 22-year-old man driving a van in Eloy, Arizona. He had over 600 pounds of food in the van and told authorities that he was being paid $4,000 to pick up the vehicle and drop it off in the desert. After this bizarre incident, a Border Patrol Blackhawk helicopter spotted seven men 33 miles west of Eloy hiding in a cave and behind rocks. All of them were captured.

"Basically, their job is to observe and report, as any other spy or military spotter," said DEA Agent Todd Smith in this NBC News article. "It's almost like a military operation; person to person all the way from the international boundary all the way up into the Phoenix area." 

The discovery of such clandestine operations is crucial for Border Patrol because the Mexican Drug War is as dangerous as ever. The U.S. Passports and International Travel Department has a warning issued for Americans traveling to Mexico. On January 9, the department cautioned travelers about the risk of traveling to Mexico due to the presence of Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in the 13th largest independent nation in the world.

Unfortunately, it's likely only a matter of time before the cartels figure out another method of communication to dodge encounters with Mexican or American law enforcement, but as of now, Border Patrol is catching on to their latest strategy.

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