PHOENIX - An expert in Mexican drug crimes says he's not surprised to hear that Phoenix has seen hundreds of smuggling-related kidnappings over the past few years.
Jose Luis Velasco Cruz is a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Velasco says traffickers bringing immigrants and drugs into Arizona from Mexico cannot turn to police to resolve disputes with rival smugglers, so they kidnap competitors to settle scores. Velasco was a guest speaker Thursday at a forum on border crime at ASU West.
Disputes between traffickers arise, for instance, when one smuggling crew steals cargo from a rival.
Last year, 368 smuggling-related kidnappings were reported in Phoenix, but police believe the actual number is three times higher. Arizona serves as the busiest illegal gateway into the U.S.