EL PASO, Texas (KETK) – East Texas law enforcement is in a constant fight against illegal drugs coming into the United States through the southern border.

“Whether it’s East Texas, Denver or Chicago, if illegal narcotics are coming across the border, they end up making their way to larger metropolitan areas,” Thomas Schwieger, a Border Patrol agent in the El Paso sector, says.

According to the latest data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents have seized almost 86,000 lbs. of cocaine so far this year. They have also confiscated nearly 62,000 lbs. of meth and more than two tons of heroin.

Numbers below reflect FY 2014-2018 totals, FY 2019 TD (to date) (October 1, 2018 – August 31, 2019) U.S. Customs and Border Protection

“Methamphetamine. This is the stuff they are buying on the street,” Rusk County Sherriff Jeff Price says. “They are smoking, eating and injecting it.”

Drug traffickers take these drugs to communities all around the country, including East Texas, on major routes like Interstate 20. Price says his office is in a constant battle against these illegal substances.

“We are seeing heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Almost everything now is methamphetamine and marijuana.”

Jeff Price, Rusk County Sheriff

The Rusk County Sheriff’s Office has purchased an incinerator to dispose of illegal drugs. They also use it to destroy old medications through their drug takeback program.

Sheriff Price says criminals are getting creative by hiding these illegal substances in common everyday items.

“They are using Altoid cans, and if it’s not an Altoid’s can, they are using Crown Royal bags.”

Smugglers have come up with unique ways to sneak these drugs across the border by using sewer systems, catapults and drones.

“We catch as much as we can, for sure,” Schwieger says. “At the same time, a lot of our agents are transporting, processing, or watching illegal aliens in the hospital. We don’t have the manpower to patrol a lot of the known routes where narcotics are coming into the country.”

Border Patrol agent inspects a water drainage tunnel in Nogales, AZ. (Josh Denmark)

Resources are stretched thin at the southern border. When large groups of people are detected crossing illegally, a lot of the times a single agent will be tracking them with back-up hours away. Agents say a border wall helps them by slowing down the crossing time for drug traffickers and migrants.

“It buys us more time. There is no person that can fit through this. If someone does cross, they have to use a ladder giving us more time to respond.”

Customs at border entries are key to stopping the influx of drugs. Recently, agents at the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge in Laredo seized more than $1.6 million of heroin, cocaine and a potent amphetamine that officers discovered hidden within a passenger vehicle arriving from Mexico.

“Our officers maintained strict vigilance and dedication to CBP’s border security mission and their perseverance yielded a significant poly-drug load characterized by a substantial amount of heroin,” Port Director Albert Flores, Laredo Port of Entry says. “By utilizing an effective combination of officer experience and high tech tools, our frontline officers were able to help keep their community safe.”

Packages containing 72.5 pounds of heroin,
2.24 pounds of cocaine and 2.46 pounds of
norephedrine hydrochloride seized by CBP
officers at Juarez-Lincoln Bridge in Laredo,

The seizure occurred on September 21, when officers at Juarez-Lincoln Bridge inspected a vehicle driven by a 29-year-old male Mexican citizen. Agents used imaging systems and canines to discover 28 packages of heroin.