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The Marion Star

Marion County law enforcement leaders headed to U.S.-Mexico border

By Andrew Carter, Marion Star,


As part of the ongoing battle against fentanyl and other deadly drugs being pushed into communities across the nation, Marion County law enforcement officials will attend a seminar next week in one of the hot spots for drug trafficking along the southern border of the United States.

Marion County Sheriff Matt Bayles, Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald, and Marion County Prosecutor Ray Grogan will be part of the Borders to Backyards program in Cochise County, Arizona. It's located in the southeastern corner of Arizona and borders Mexico to the south and New Mexico to the east.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels implemented the program for law enforcement personnel from around the United States to "educate and heighten awareness to the facts and reality of border security at all levels." A 38-year veteran of law enforcement, Dannels is a staunch advocate for border security. He is a past member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council and a current member of the National Sheriffs Association, serving as the Border Security chairman.

Bayles said he learned about the program during a recent seminar staged by Sheriff Kieran Donahue of Canyon County, Idaho.

"In speaking with (Donahue) after the class, we have a lot of similar issues between his county in Idaho and Marion County," Bayles explained. "During the class, he suggested numerous times that law enforcement go to the border and see what's going on down at the border as far as cartels and what they're doing down there."

Part of the program includes learning about the drug cartels and how they operate, Bayles said. The second part of the program involves going into the field and working alongside Cochise County sheriff's deputies and state and federal agents as they patrol the border between Arizona and Mexico.

"(Dannels) said they've arrested over 1,600 people coming over the border since the first of the year," Bayles said. "The fentanyl that we see coming into Marion County is coming through the southern border so we need to learn about the issues going on down there and how we can use what they've learned to help us in Marion. ... We're not just talking about drug trafficking, we're talking about human trafficking, also. That's a big problem (at the southern border) and all over the country as well."

The trip will be paid for using funds that the MARMET Drug Task Force has seized from drug traffickers arrested in Marion County. No local taxpayer dollars will be used, Bayles said.

McDonald said he's looking forward to "seeing what's real" at the southern border instead of depending on second and third hand reporting. He believes getting firsthand knowledge will be valuable.

"This will give us the opportunity to go down and see it ourselves, to talk to the people who are doing the work, and maybe even talk to the people who are coming (across the border)," McDonald said. "If we're in the car with the interdiction officers who are doing their daily work, I anticipate to be able to talk to some of the people who are coming across the border.

"I think we all realize that most of the people who are coming are coming to work in our factories and farms, but there are many people coming who are victims of human trafficking, victims of the cartels. And then there are the people who are coming to harm the safety of places like Marion. All three of those we might have the opportunity to see firsthand and to try to figure out how to best protect the community that we are sworn to do."

Grogan said from 2018 to 2021, local law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl to kill about 2 million people. However, the problem escalated last year, he said. In 2022 alone, law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl in Marion County to kill more than 1 million people.

He said despite the influx of illicit drugs that have decimated many people in the community, Marion is still "a wonderful place."

"I want to be very clear about something; Marion is a fantastic community," Grogan said. "When we talk about drugs and the problems that we've had particularly in Marion, it tends to paint our community in a negative light. I want to be careful not to to do that. This place is a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. But we have a problem and we need to do everything that we can to fix the problem."

Email: | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter

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