Yuma County, AZ – Border crime dropped by 91 percent after a fence was erected at Yuma County’s border with Mexico.
“The fence worked here,” Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told FOX News. “I can only talk about my area. But [politicians should] defer to the Border Patrol experts. They know the situation.”
There are more square miles in Yuma County than in the entire state of Connecticut, The Epoch Times reported.
The county’s border with Mexico stretches a staggering 126 miles, and was once considered to be the most prevalent place for illegal crossings into the United States.
In 2005 alone, over 2,700 vehicles loaded with drugs and illegal immigrants entered the U.S. across the border in Yuma County, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Agents working in the Yuma County Sector arrested more than 138,000 illegal immigrants that year.
“Yuma battled entrenched smuggling groups for control of the border,” the agency said, according to The Epoch Times. “Mass incursions often left agents outnumbered 50 to 1. Agents were assaulted with rocks and weapons daily.”
Everything changed in 2006, when Congress passed the Secure Fence Act.
As a result, a 20-foot tall steel fence was erected along the county’s southern border, a fleet of mobile surveillance vehicles was brought in, and manpower was tripled.
The number of border apprehensions plummeted to just 7,000 arrests by 2009.
“We were able to reduce [ancillary crimes] by 91 percent,” Sheriff Wilmot said. “The deaths in the desert, the rapes, the robberies, the homicides, the burglaries, the thefts.”
“When they were no longer able to take advantage of our border as a smuggler’s paradise, the crimes against those being smuggled virtually stopped,” he told FOX News.
In addition to the physical barrier, illegal immigrants caught crossing the border were indisputably prosecuted, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office Captain Eben Bratcher explained.
“If you did try to cross and you got caught, you were held accountable. There were consequences,” Capt. Bratcher told The Epoch Times. “The fence slowed them down… But the real issue was, when you got caught, you went to jail. It stopped.”
The 100 percent prosecution policy was halted under the Obama administration, and crime has steadily crept back up since then, he said.
In 2018, over 26,000 illegal aliens were apprehended by the Border Patrol in Yuma, The Epoch Times reported.
“It is disturbing to see the trend increasing again and the tactics changed again, too,” Capt. Bratcher noted. “When you take away the prosecution, rather than trying to sneak through, now they just walk across and give themselves up.”
Instances of drug smuggling jumped back up as well, especially once criminals realized that federal prosecutors weren’t going to charge them with anything.
“The individuals would come across, the U.S. attorney’s office would not charge them, the dope was seized, they would cut them loose, and it was a revolving door,” Sheriff Wilmot explained. “They just kept coming back, coming back, coming back.”
He eventually ended up deputizing federal officers so they would have the authority to take their cases to the county attorney for prosecution of State offenses instead, the sheriff said.
But without the federal involvement, local and state governments were left with a hefty bill.
“It ended up costing sheriffs in Arizona about $30 million to house these individuals that had committed crimes [and] were here illegally in this country, smuggling in heroin, dope, marijuana, cocaine,” Sheriff Wilmot said. “So local taxpayers still had to pick up the rest of that burden.”
Under the Trump administration, federal prosecution of illegal aliens has increased, he added.
Sheriff Wilmot, a 30-year veteran of the force, said he has witnessed the effects of the horrific crimes that bandits and cartels are willing to carry out to get humans and drugs across the border.
“We all too often see interviews in Washington [with] mayors and governors but, no offense, they are not the ones that are down here on the border,” he told The Epoch Times in May of 2018.
“They are not the ones that are investigating the crimes. They are not the ones out here when it’s 120 degrees, processing a crime scene where 14 people were left to die in the desert,” the sheriff said.
As far as he’s concerned, politics and public safety don’t work hand-in-hand.
Many politicians who visit the border “do their photo op, they’ll get a 20-minute briefing, and then – boom – they’re done. They’re out. And that’s the problem,” he noted.
The sheriff argued that government leaders “need to get their heads out of the sand” and to “get to work,” FOX News reported.
“It’s two separate deals,” Sheriff Wilmot told The Epoch Times. “Politics and public safety are not synonymous at all. We need to enforce the laws of this land.”
“Get with the local law enforcement leaders and then tailor it to the needs of the area,” he suggested. “It’s the boots on the ground that know best.”
Sheriff Wilmot said that the negative effects of an unsecured border don’t just impact the local area – they spread throughout the entire country.
“When it comes to border security you need all of it,” the sheriff told FOX News. “You can fence up a house but you need everything else to make it secure.”