Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties have been identified by the ONDCP as a HIDTA. The Sinaloa Cartel relies on their local associates to coordinate, direct, and support the smuggling of illegal drugs and aliens from Mexico to the United States.Since Arizona is contiguous with the U.S.-Mexico International Boundary,the Tucson and Phoenix metropolitan areas are major trans-shipment and distribution points for contraband smuggling. Plaza bosses operate as a Sinaloa Cartel leader with in their specific area of operation along the Sonora-Arizona corridor of the U.S.-Mexico International Boundary.
Border Patrol's own experience with apprehensions between border crossings bears this out. In fiscal year 2018, there were over 52,000 apprehensions of illegal entrants attempting enter the United States between the border crossings in the Tucson Sector. Also in fiscal year 2018 Border Patrol had over 1,900 separate drug-related events between border crossings in the Tucson Sector,through which it seized over 1,600 pounds of marijuana, over 52 pounds of cocaine, over 48 pounds of heroin, over 902 pounds of methamphetamine, and over 11 pounds of fentanyl.
In addition, the absence of adequate pedestrian fencing, either due to the presence of vehicle barrier only or ineffective pedestrian designs, in the Tucson sector continues to be particularly problematic as it pertains to the trafficking of illegal narcotics. Rival transnational criminal organizations frequently employ "rip crews" who leverage the remote desert environment and lack of infrastructure to steal one another's illicit cargo resulting in increased border violence.
The terrain also provides high ground to scouts seeking to protect and warn smuggling loads being passed through the area. Transnational criminal organizations have successfully utilized this advantage in furtherance of their illicit activity and for this reason the area is in need of an improved capability to impede and deny illegal crossings or people and narcotics. In addition, the area hosts a number of tourist attractions that allow illegal activity to blend into legitimate activity; avoiding detection and evading interdiction.