In-depth: Answers about the Wall, part 2 – drugs and the border

Jan 17, 2019, 10:00 AM
border wall security drugs...
This Jan. 7, 2017 photo, shows the Antelope Wells port of entry from the El Berrendo, Mexico, side of the border with southern New Mexico. (Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
(Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Drugs come to and through Utah by the thousands if not millions of pounds, and law enforcement officers say a border wall or barrier could help stem that tide.

“Utah is a cartel-friendly state,” says Brian Besser, DEA district agent in charge for Utah. “It’s our demographics and geographics.”

Long miles of emptiness fill much of Utah, particularly south of the heavily-populated Wasatch Front. It makes the state, Besser says, a perfect place for drug traffickers to drive and drive and never get caught. He says drugs are not only driven up from the south and west through Utah to final destinations in other states, but they also come to stay here because of the demand.

“Utah is seeing massive amounts of Mexican sourced methamphetamine, massive amounts of Mexican and Columbian-sourced heroin, and of course fentanyl,” Besser says.

Besser says Utahns are over-using and abusing prescription pills and then moving on to illegal drugs.

“The cartels are flooding Utah streets with cheap, highly potent heroin,” he says.

drugs border security wall

The Utah County Sheriff’s Department says more than $850,000 in drugs, mostly cocaine and meth, were found in a car this weekend. A separate bust turned up another $1 million in methamphetamine. (Utah County Sheriff’s Dept.)

Just this past week in Utah County, two different men were arrested with millions of dollars worth of cocaine and meth in their vehicles.

Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon says one of those men has been deported back to Mexico 8 times.

“Whether he’s hiding in a trunk, or using someone else’s ID, climbing over a fence or swimming through a river, he is coming into the United States illegally,” said Cannon.

President Trump says a barrier wall will do much to stop drug smuggling from Mexico.

“They’re brilliant, in many ways. They’re brilliant. You wouldn’t even think of what they do to get things in. And we can stop it,” he told the American Farm Bureau Federation. “But we can’t stop it if we’re going to play politics. And the numbers you’re talking about are peanuts compared — you’ll make the money back numerous times a year.”

“A wall is a huge prohibitor, that’s what a wall is,” says Besser. “No one debates the efficacy of a wall who is in drug law enforcement.”

He says it will stop more drugs from coming north, and stop the flow of money going south, and that will dry up business.

However, Besser says he also knows a wall is not the silver bullet because cartels make it their business to get drugs to where the demand is. In other words, so long as there is a demand, cartels will find a way to supply it. They dig massive tunnels or find new ways to smuggle through checkpoints.

“Drug traffickers will simply come up through the Caribbean or the Atlantic waterways — you know, they’ll fly over the wall, and human smugglers will find a way to circumvent it as well,” said Former DHS acting undersecretary and ABC News Contributor John Cohen.

But decreasing the demand on our end would help, Besser believes. Besser also wants to see more Utah Highway Patrol troopers getting hired and getting better pay. And he says strengthening Utah’s civil asset forfeiture laws will also hit the cartels in the wallet.

Those are things up to the state government, while the federal government continues debating the wall.

Friday, our series continues with a look at gang activity and what a border fence or wall would do to curb that.

Today’s Top Stories


Ogden police car...
Mark Jones

Ogden-Weber Technical College evacuated due to bomb threat; no bomb found

Weber County emergency personnel responded to the Ogden-Weber Technical College Wednesday afternoon for a report of bomb threat. After a search of the campus, no device was found.
1 day ago
Black Rifle Coffee...
Lindsay Aerts

Black Rifle Coffee, Dallas Cowboys take heat for timing of business partnership

The timing of a business partnership between Utah-based Black Rifle Coffee and the Dallas Cowboys has generated a lot of emotions on social media.
1 day ago
south jordan police...
Mark Jones

Two children hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in South Jordan

South Jordan police say two children are in critical condition after a auto-pedestrian collision Wednesday. Both children were taken to Primary Children's Hospital.
1 day ago
Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North S...
Lindsay Aerts

Stericycle can no longer burn medical waste in SLC, but the fight to stop toxic pollutants may not be over

Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake belonging to Stericycle, has been shut down.
1 day ago
Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained. Photo Credit: Utah Fire Info....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained, Utah Fire Info says

Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained after days of firefighters combating the blaze.
1 day ago
air conditioner...
Carlos Artiles

What if your air conditioner breaks down during the summer months?

If your air conditioner breaks down during the summer, you could be on a wait list of a few weeks before it could be fixed or replaced.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
In-depth: Answers about the Wall, part 2 – drugs and the border