Matthew Barden, Resident Agent-in-Charge of the US Drug Enforcement Administration Office in Colorado Springs, maintains that the ease with which cartel members can reach Colorado Springs has made the city a prime location for their activities. “Interstate 25,” he says, “runs straight down to the Mexican border. Between the border and Colorado Springs, there’s only one other town of any real size – and that would be Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“The interstate system that we have here,” he continues, “brings these folks to our town because they have direct access to Mexico along this highway.”
The Colorado branch of the DEA has been involved in “Project Deliverance,”a 22-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation publicly announced last June. In Colorado, a total of 29 individuals have been arrested on narcotic-related charges, and over $1.4 million in currency and assets have been seized. This is in addition to over thirteen pounds of cocaine, thirty pounds of methamphetamine and 3.75 pounds of heroin. Across the states, the investigation has resulted in 2,278 arrests and the seizure of $154 million dollars, as well as a staggering 2.5 tons of cocaine, 69 tons of marijuana, 501 weapons, and 527 vehicles.
The statistics suggest that there has been considerable cartel activity in Colorado Springs at least over the past 2 years. But Matthew Barden is emphatic that the population has not and will not see the kind of violence that is tearing apart cities like Juarez.
“I don’t think that Colorado Springs, in itself, is a drug haven. There’s just not enough open sales of large quantities of drugs on the street corners. Yes, there are drugs,” he readily admits, “but as far as Colorado Springs being a tremendous hub, I don’t find it to be any different from any place else. We just don’t have the violence.”
Despite the difficulties presented by sophisticated cartels, Barden thinks the fight in Colorado and across the US is being won by the law enforcement agencies involved. “When you can claim over 2,200 arrests out of an operation, and when you’ve seized several hundred million dollars, [what you have is] a successful operation.”
But Mike Turner, a Special Agent with the DEA, thinks it is misleading to talk of winning the fight outright, not only in Colorado Springs,but, as well, down in Mexico and across the States too. “Drug trafficking is criminal activity just like burglary and robbery. We’re still trying to put [the Mexican cartels] out of business, but just as you’re not going to put burglars, murderers and bank robbers out of business tomorrow, it won’t happen overnight. I think that folks should look at it that way rather than, basically asking, ‘When are you going to win the drug war?’”
However, the combination of Colorado Springs’ distance and ease of access from the Mexico border means that the authorities there are prepared to face the challenges posed by the cartels. From Barden’s standpoint, “We are going to root out these organizations… We’re going to take all their drugs and their money, and we’re going to break them.”
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