COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. - On Wednesday night, President Trump brought his message of border security again to Arizona, but in Cochise County, ranchers have found that the best solution for illegal border crossings so far has not come from the Feds, and it hasn’t been in the form of a wall.
Rather, they say it’s technology from the local Sheriff’s Office that is leading the way on a crackdown.
FOX 10 has interviewed rancher John Ladd before. His family’s ranch has run along the U.S. - Mexico border since the Ladds settled there back in 1896. The 16,000 acres have seen it all when it comes to illegal immigration.
In 2017, he even had a sewage problem.
“Mexico doesn't spend a lot of money on it,” said Ladd. “Naco's broke, so raw sewage is flowing into the U.S.”
It got a temporary fix after FOX 10’s story aired.
“Martha McSally and Gayle Griffin got involved in it, went to ADEQ, and they proceeded to get with the International Boundary and Water Commission to fund some of the fixes," said Ladd.
While the sewage stopped, the crossings haven’t, but there has been a change.
Ladd partnered with the Cochise County Sheriff's office in 2017. The SABRE, or Southeastern Arizona Border Regional Enforcement team, doesn't use a wall.
They use manpower and cameras typically used to track wildlife that cost about $1,000 each to monitor trafficked areas around Cochise County. Ladd has them on his ranch.
"If you got packing dope on camera, you immediately had a minimum two-year prison sentence,” said Ladd. “The first six months of that program, they got 39 mules. We haven't had drugs on this ranch for 26 months.”
FOX 10 went out with the SABRE team one year ago. Once a camouflaged camera is tripped, members of the team check to see if it's dope runners or human traffickers. The dope runners they can arrest and prosecute.
“You're at the sheriff’s office, and you understand what that means right?” said Jake Kartchner with the Cochise County Strike Force, in 2019, recounting an encounter he had one time. “Looked at me. Looked at my partner, and he said ‘yea, that means two years for me.’”
“If you're in jail for two years, you're not gonna make a wage,” said Ladd. “Your family – they all got families, kids, everything else. That's just what they do, they're drug smugglers, but that's enough to deter them and quit running dope.”
Human traffickers are the Border Patrol's responsibility. Ladd says it comes down to manpower over everything else.
“Norder Patrol is not funded or provided the manpower that's needed to actually control the international boundary,” said Ladd. “Part of its Washington’s fault. Part of it is Border Patrol's fault. They have a manpower shortage.”
Tucson sector border apprehensions increased year over year, from 1,698 in January 2019 to 2,613 last month.
Ladd supports a wall, but says that alone will never stop the problem.
While border crossings may be up in the Tucson Sector, crossings in the Yuma Sector have dropped dramatically, ever since Trump made asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in the United States.