TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A Mexican drug cartel is threatening Nogales police officers, telling them to avoid off-duty drug busts or deal with the consequences of being assaulted by armed smugglers or targeted by snipers from across the border.
Nogales Police Chief Jeff Kirkham said the threats are serious, credible and a sign that drug cartels have become a much more dangerous enemy.
"Some direct threats came against our officers that if they're off duty, they were not to interdict any type of narcotics coming across the border or they would be targeted," Kirkham said.
Kirkham tells 9 On Your Side the threats stem from an incident two weeks ago, when off-duty officers conducted a drug bust while riding horseback in an unincorporated area of town. Some of the traffickers were apprehended, but others fled across the border. During the ensuing investigation, credible informants told police about the threats.
Kirkham says that given drastic budget cuts recently, the department does not have adequate funding or resources, but will not be deterred by the threats.
"[The cartel's] belief is that when [officers] are not in uniform, they should look away and not do their job. And that's absolutely what we're not going to do."
Kirkham has advised his officers to stay armed while off duty and to take all necessary precautions, including carrying communications devices. Nogales police have informed federal law enforcement agencies of the incident, and Border Patrol has increased manpower and surveillance at the unincorporated areas of Nogales.
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