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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Assaults Soaring Against Border Patrol

From Tucson TV station KOLD News 13, Nov.1,2005

Assaults Soaring Against Border Patrol

By Som Lisaius, KOLD News 13

Nationwide, assaults against Border Patrol agents are up considerably. Though here in the Tucson sector, they've more than doubled in the last year. Everything from rocks, to guns to moving vehicles. The figures are startling. Believe it or not, the Border Patrol saw it coming.

"What it means is that we're getting operational control. We're dealing with a very frustrated smuggler." Border Patrol Agent Jose Garza is referring to a trend that--on the surface--may be a bit misleading. That is, increased violence against agents along the border.

In fiscal year 2005, which just ended Sept. 30th, Tucson sector agents were assaulted 246 times. That's more than double 2004's total of 118 assaults. All this while apprehensions were down some 13 percent: 432,000 in 2005, compared to 491,000 in 2004.

Still--despite the statistics--Border Patrol officials say the news is good. And that a record 2500 agents are making a difference with the highest drug seizure (490,000 pounds) total in sector history.

"The increased operational control we're gaining in the Tucson sector, it's making it very difficult to get their illicit cargo--so that's why we're seeing this frustration and they're trying to avoid arrest."

Assaults against Border Patrol agents are one thing, though it's the kind of assaults that's causing so much concern. Indeed a rock can do a lot of damage, but a moving vehicle can do a whole lot more. Unfortunately, a bullet can too.

Over the last year, shootings and vehicular assaults against Border Patrol agents have more than tripled: 2005, 32 shootings, 29 vehicular assaults; 2004, nine shootings, nine vehicular assaults.

Thrown rocks are still responsible for the majority of assaults against agents. But because many of these incidents occur outside the city--in more isolated, rural areas--smugglers are using more violent means of getting away. But Agent Garza says the Border Patrol is ready.

"They know the aspects of our job, how dangerous it is...and they're highly trained to deal with it," Agent Garza says. "But we have seen a steady increase --and we expect it...because like I said, we're doing a lot more encounters."

Even with the recent surge in violence-- good news is, no agents were killed this year in the Tucson sector. Two were wounded in a Nogales last spring. They both survived. Not since 1998 has a Tucson agent lost his life in the line of duty.


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