Richardson: Keep Valley's federal crime team intact - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Richardson: Keep Valley's federal crime team intact

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Posted: Saturday, December 13, 2008 6:07 pm | Updated: 9:06 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

According to the ongoing Los Angeles Times series, "Mexico Under Siege: The drug war at our doorstep," 6,836 drug war-related deaths have occurred in Mexico since January 2007.

"It's a war."

Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico

According to the ongoing Los Angeles Times series, "Mexico Under Siege: The drug war at our doorstep," 6,836 drug war-related deaths have occurred in Mexico since January 2007.

Arizona is becoming ground zero in America's war against the Mexican drug cartels that have expanded their criminal enterprises beyond drug trafficking. New partnerships with our homegrown prison and street gangs have given the cartels more opportunity to increase profits and power.

In a Dec. 8 Associated Press report, Mexico's attorney general Eduardo Medina said, "Organized-crime slayings in Mexico are up 117 percent" in 2008, compared to 2007.

Look south to see what can happen if the cartels get a stranglehold on Arizona. Recent violence in Nogales is a reminder of how close the enemy is. Maricopa County is already the kidnapping capital of America and much of the ransom money obtained goes to the cartels.

For whatever reasons, Arizona has become the place where much of the showdown between good and evil might take place. After years of neglect at all levels of government, our state has become the pathway for the cartels' northern movement.

One of soon-to-be Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's first duties must be to stop the flood of organized crime and corruption into the U.S. from Mexico.

Her success will be critical for Barack Obama's presidency, her career and our safety. Napolitano will need all the help she can get.

She needs to look at the East Valley police and the federal law enforcement agencies who have partnered up to see how effective law enforcement can and should be done.

During the past two years, we've seen considerable success due in large part to the efforts of East Valley police chiefs and the leaders of four federal agencies.

The federal "A-Team" is made up of U.S. Marshal David Gonzales, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Beth Kempshall, Phoenix FBI boss John Lewis and Bill Newell, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge.

Gonzales, Arizona's dean of federal law enforcement, is a retired state police captain with decades of experience and success leading attacks on organized crime and busting street gangs. He's been described as the catalyst who has put feds and local cops together and moving in the same direction. His command presence, reputation and credibility are second to none.

As a career federal narcotics agent, Kempshall infiltrated major organized crime groups while working undercover. And as a DEA leader she's commanded successful assaults on multiple crime syndicates nationwide. Lewis is the FBI's former deputy assistant director over counter-terrorism operations. Links between terrorists and drug traffickers exist. Thanks in a large part to Lewis' leadership, the Phoenix FBI office has gained new acceptance and status with local police. Newell, who has extensive experience throughout Latin America, is responsible for taking the Phoenix ATF office to new levels of success in attacking career and violent criminals and stemming the flow of weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels.

The local feds have set a new standard when it comes to success and working with local police. A standard that doesn't exist everywhere and didn't in Arizona until these four came along. Infighting and turf wars are still common in policing.

Gonzales recently told a Valley paper that the cartels are continuing to grow more powerful in Mexico and it's just a matter of time before the violence crosses the border.

Our current federal law enforcement leadership team is our best bet at stopping the cartels from dictating Arizona's future.

Unfortunately, with a new administration in Washington comes the prospect that Arizona's current federal law enforcement leaders will be replaced or transferred. Changing and disrupting a team that operates with the success, confidence and efficiency of a championship NASCAR pit crew would hurt us dearly.

And without Arizona's current federal "A-Team," Napolitano's job to fight the war against the cartels will be all that much more difficult to win in her home state.

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