Photo: Foreclosured homes are prime real estate for drug and human smugglers
Law enforcement officials say that as the number of foreclosure and rental properties rises in Santa Cruz County in Arizona, drug and human smugglers are finding it easier to obtain places to use for their illegal operations.
Local law enforcement officials are now busting at least one house a month full of either Mexican marijuana or people awaiting transport to locations throughout the U.S.
“It’s happening in Santa Cruz County, and not necessarily only in Nogales (or) only in Rio Rico,” Lt. Geraldo Castillo of the Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force said. “Wherever there are houses available, rentals, that’s what they’re looking for, available homes – good neighborhoods are not exempt.”
Castillo said smugglers tend to prefer renting houses over buying them outright, and as more people are renting their houses in attempts to avoid foreclosure, the market is prime for smugglers looking for locations to house their operations. And with Santa Cruz County having one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state, combined with it’s proximity to the border, it provides the smugglers with opportunity.
Around 1 in every 246 homes in the county went into foreclosure in January of 2011, with the national average being 1 in 494 homes.