High Intensity Drug Trafficking AreaInternational
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Southwest Border HIDTA

Mission Statement: The overall mission of the Southwest Border HIDTA is to develop joint, seamless regional systems resulting in coordinated interdiction, intelligence, investigation and prosecution efforts that result in a measurable reduction in drug trafficking. This HIDTA seeks to reduce drug smuggling along the southwest border.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1990
Geographic Area of Responsibility: The Southwest Border HIDTA is currently located in San Diego, California, but will relocate to El Paso, Texas in 2001. The Southwest Border HIDTA implements border-wide initiatives and coordinates the following five regional partnerships:
AZ: Yuma, Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise and Mohave counties
CA: San Diego and Imperial counties
NM: Bernalillo, Hidalgo, Grant, Luna, Dona Ana, Eddy, Lea, Otero, Chaves, Lincoln, San Juan, Rio Arriba, and Santa Fe counties
W TX: El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, Presidio, Brewster, Pecos, Terrell, and Reeves counties
S TX: Bexar, Val Verde, Kinney, Maverick, Zavala, Dimmit, La Salle, Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg, Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron counties and all the municipalities therein
Contact: (619) 557-5324 ext. 15 and biersj@swb.hidta.org

Threat Abstract:

The Southwest Border (SWB) represents the arrival zone for South American produced cocaine and heroin, Mexican produced methamphetamine and heroin, marijuana, other dangerous drugs and precursor chemicals. This region includes approximately 2,000 miles of international border—from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas.

The volume of border traffic makes ports of entry vulnerable to drug trafficking and money laundering. Commercial infrastructures provide "masking opportunities" for drug trafficking organizations, which have become sophisticated at concealing drugs and money in cross-border vehicle and train traffic. Traffickers consistently attempt to blend in with legitimate border crossing activities (pedestrian traffic, private or commercial vehicles).

Remote and sparsely populated territory stretches between the ports of entry and provides prime targets for drug smugglers. Drug trafficking organizations have become adept at smuggling between the ports of entry utilizing pedestrians, horses, and vehicles in unregulated areas.

Maritime smuggling, along the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean, also contributes to the drug threat. Fishing boats, oil tankers, speedboats and other vessels are believed to transport significant quantities of drugs. These drugs are off-loaded to small, fast boats for further transportation through California and South Texas. Non-commercial aircraft activities also play a role in the transportation of drugs from South America to staging areas in Mexico near the border. From these staging areas, the drugs are then smuggled into the United States.

The SWB is impacted by large population centers on both sides of the border (San Diego/Tijuana, Imperial Valley/Mexicali and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez). Common cultural, familial, and commercial interests to Mexico link these population centers. These ties contribute significantly to enforcement problems in combating corruption and conducting law enforcement operations at the ports of entry.

Another factor negatively impacting narcotics enforcement efforts is that intelligence operations are hampered by international laws that create information vacuums in both interdiction and investigation.

Strategy Abstract:

The SWB HIDTA is, in many ways, one of most diverse HIDTAs within the National Program. It is divided into five regional partnerships (Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas and South Texas) located in the four states that border Mexico. The SWB HIDTA is comprised of forty-five counties and five Federal judicial districts. Representatives participating in HIDTA initiatives are from 115 federal, state and local agencies. The SWB HIDTA coordinates the HIDTA efforts along the entire border, including allocation of HIDTA resources and coordination with other border law enforcement efforts.

The Southwest Border HIDTA was designated as a single HIDTA with the awareness that due to the complexity and enormous challenges posed by the Southwest border, more so than in any other part of the nation, a high level of coordination among law enforcement agencies is required along the entire Southwest border. Because of its critical geographic location in relation to illegal drug activity, a high level of coordination is also required with other related drug law enforcement and intelligence entities in the region.

Currently under the management of an Executive Committee, consisting of 5 federal and 5 state and local law enforcement leaders, the SWB HIDTA has developed a strategy that presents a comprehensive methodology to solving the current major aspects of the drug problem along the SWB. This strategy serves as a commitment to long term planning to pursue the adequate resources necessary for key counter-drug programs. It offers a common agenda to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in a unified multi-agency counter-drug effort. The SWB HIDTA has continued to use the expertise of the various participating agencies to attack all facets of drug trafficking. Through integration of investigations, interdiction, and intelligence, the multi-agency task forces focus on specific organizations that have been identified as posing the most serious drug trafficking threat. The SWB HIDTA initiatives employ the full spectrum of investigative techniques. Prosecution efforts are focused on the most significant drug traffickers and are coordinated between the federal and cross-designated state prosecutors to ensure the most effective judicial venue is selected.

Investigative Support Center:

Each of the five partnerships, which currently comprise the SWB HIDTA, has an Investigative Support Center (ISC) that serves as a centerpiece for their respective regions. The ISCs provide for the collocation and commingling of vital federal, state and local law enforcement personnel and databases that are available to assist all area law enforcement agencies in their counter-drug interdiction and investigative efforts. These ISCs provide event and case deconfliction for officer safety and enhanced intelligence, strategic intelligence for refined targeting and in-service analytical intelligence training. The ISCs further provide HIDTA task forces with operational analytical support for on-going initiative driven case activity through access to criminal and commercial databases. These ISCs maintain Watch Centers, which provide law enforcement immediate access to a wide range of law enforcement and commercial databases.

As a partner with the HIDTA Program, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) maintains a 24-hour; 7-day-a-week Watch Center, which provides federal, state and local law enforcement participants, to include HIDTA funded initiatives, with timely drug intelligence. EPIC has established a HIDTA Coordination Unit to facilitate the exchange of intelligence with ISCs and HIDTA funded task forces.


Due to the scope and complexity of this region, the SWB HIDTA implements border-wide initiatives and coordinates five regional partnerships: California Border Alliance Group, Arizona Partnership, New Mexico Partnership, South Texas Partnership, and West Texas Partnership. Each of the Partnerships develops initiatives that are specific to their region.

The following are the border-wide initiatives of the Southwest Border HIDTA for FY 2000:

  1. Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, EPIC—an ONDCP sponsored, EPIC-managed computer system designed for centralized storage and remote retrieval of information relating to clandestine laboratory seizures for access by all HIDTA intelligence centers and law enforcement agencies.
  2. Southwest Border Unit, Research and Analysis Section, EPIC—prepares organizational profiles of major drug trafficking organizations and trafficking along the Southwest Border by conducting research, analyzing and fusing local, state and federal intelligence.
  3. Southwest Border HIDTA Management and Coordination—coordinates the efforts of five HIDTA partnerships, in the four states along the United States' border with Mexico by identifying those efforts that are successful, devising border wide initiatives and recommending the allocation of resources.

Please refer to the Information Sheets of each partnership for initiatives in the respective partnerships.


The CLSS Database has accomplished key elements of the SWB HIDTA's Strategy to facilitate EPIC's support of the HIDTA program and to improve intra- and inter- HIDTA information sharing. When completed, the CLSS will be the first national information sharing system for the collection, reporting, storage, analysis and retrieval of federal, state and local clandestine laboratory seizure information. Law enforcement agencies will be able to input as well as retrieve data electronically from EPIC. The development of the CLSS is being accomplished in collaboration between EPIC, HIDTA Regional Intelligence Centers and RISS Projects. Approximately 26,000 records have been entered into the database. Midwest HIDTA, West Texas HIDTA and WSIN are electronically connected to the CLSS. Efforts are ongoing to provide electronic access to the database via the RISSNET system.

The SWB Unit initiative has strengthened the efforts of the SWB HIDTA to counter drug trafficking by enhancing the sharing of intelligence and investigative information between EPIC and HIDTA initiatives, HIDTA Regional Intelligence Centers, and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working along the SWB. This has been accomplished through numerous briefings to hundreds of officers and agents on drug smuggling trends; the Gatekeeper Program; assistance to the SWB HIDTA and its five Partnerships in preparation of Threat Assessments; analytical support for specific major drug investigations; dissemination of current drug intelligence via EPIC Bulletins; and participation in SWB intelligence conferences.

The SWB HIDTA is an active participant with ONDCP in the development of a national HIDTA financial database system.

Participating Agencies:

Listed below are the agencies that participate in the Southwest Border HIDTA border-wide initiatives:

Federal: Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Customs Service

State: California Department of Justice, Texas Department of Public Safety

Local: San Diego Police Department

Please refer to the Information Sheets of each individual partnership for participating agencies in the respective partnership.

Information is provided by the Southwest Border HIDTA.

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