EL PASO, Texas -- The former El Paso U.S. Marshal said Friday that a Drug Enforcement Administration plan to fight a meth uptick in key U.S. cities like El Paso is needed.
"I think that is what it takes is law enforcement being proactive and going after the cartels, going after the drugs that are coming across border - with the emphasis on taking down more of these loads along the border," said former federal marshal Robert Almonte.
DEA seizures of methamphetamine in the U.S. increased by 127%, from 49,507 pounds to 112,146 pounds between 2017 and 2019, and DEA arrests related to the drug rose nearly 20%, the agency said.
Almonte, who is also a retired assistant El Paso police chief and narcotics detective, said he has seen firsthand how traffickers are finding new ways to bring in meth from Mexico.
"What we're also seeing is the liquid methamphetamine coming over here crossing the border in liquid form. Then it is converted or taken to a conversion lab and converted to a finished powder product," Almonte said.
Just last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 1,500 pounds of liquid meth at El Paso's Ysleta port of entry. A DEA calculation estimates that seizure alone could have a street value of $100 million.
"The only way these people are going to get off of methamphetamine is by seeking treatment. Along with that however, people will not seek treatment on their own - unless they are forced to. And how are they forced into treatment? By being arrested. I think its a combination of law enforcement, prevention and treatment," Almonte explained.
The DEA said its meth crackdown will target drug transportation hubs in eight cities, including El Paso.
Acting DEA administrator Uttam Dhillon said the "drug law enforcement initiative will attack the growing methamphetamine threat in the United States and the global criminal organizations responsible for flooding our communities and neighborhoods with this deadly drug."