Elite group of Native American officers combat drug smuggling on - New York News

Elite group of Native American officers combat drug smuggling on the Tohono O'odham Nation

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SELLS, Ariz. - You've seen the new border fence, the remotely piloted predator aircraft, and high-tech ground sensors as the U.S. Struggles to seal the border with Mexico.

But what you don't see very often are the Shadow Wolves and they've been patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border for 40 years. They are an elite special unit of tactical officers from the Tohono O'odham Nation that call that region of Arizona their home.

The Tohono O'odham Nation in southern Arizona is breathtakingly beautiful and serene, but there is an ugly side to this landscape. This is one of the busiest drug trafficking sites in America.
    
"Right now we're roughly 40 miles from the border, this is the area they're still trekking through," said Kevin Carlos.

Patrolling this area to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the United States from Mexico are nine highly trained highly specialized tactical officers.

They're called Shadow Wolves, a group made up entirely of Native Americans who grew up on this land and use their knowledge that comes from their ancestors to do their jobs.

"We don't have the technology that other law enforcement agencies have on the border we pretty much rely on the ancient art of tracking," said David Scout.

"When you say tracking you're not just talking about footprints in the sand, you're talking about reading what that individual did as he walked through his trail," said Carlos.

These officers are looking for the tiniest most minute detail that could lead them to where these drug traffickers are or where they're headed.

We went out on patrol with a long time shadow wolf officer Kevin Carlos through the busy corridors used by drug smugglers.  We saw just a small part of the 76 miles of border they patrol.

"As I'm going through the area I'm looking for the broken branches that may be lying down, and I'll pick them up, and I'll feel them, and if they crumble as easy as this that means they've been here for a while. But if you get a branch that is not crushing and it's still moist you know it's another indication to tell you your target is just up ahead," said Carlos.

Something as small as a piece of clothing or a bag snagged on a branch or a worn out foot print can lead them to their suspect. These are things only a trained eye would ever be able to pick up on.

When they spot evidence, a smuggler has rested in the shade of a tree they can determine what time the smuggler left by looking at the disturbed earth in relation to the shadow and sun.

"What we're doing is walking getting a general idea what direction he's going, where he's at how many people are traveling, what are they carrying and you'll have an idea as to where to post other individuals so I will call my counterparts to tell them to get ahead of me maybe a mile or two that cuts them off," he said.

While out on patrol, Carlos got a call from one of his colleagues who had come across a large, elaborate camp in a ravine where the smugglers rest.

"You got all the garbage here, you got little areas where they would hide the narcotics right underneath there, and that's what they would cover the narcotics with the branches and stuff," he said.

There is no fresh evidence that the smugglers are close, but a common piece of evidence these investigators see all the time carpet booties worn to hide their footprints.

"These guys are constantly wearing these carpet booties on their trek northbound, it's to try and conceal detection by law enforcement," he said.

The camp we inspect is abandoned, but that doesn't mean it won't be visited again by the traffickers, but Carlos and his group will keep tabs on it.

The Tohono O'odham Nation didn't ask for their sacred land to be drawn into the deadly and ugly drug trade, but its proximity to the border has made it a hot spot.

While they haven't been able to stop the flow of drugs here, the shadow wolves have proven that their knowledge and wisdom much of which has been passed down for generations has kept a large quantity of drugs off American streets every year.

The Shadow Wolves celebrated their 40th anniversary in April and the Homeland Security Investigation office in Sells, Arizona is the only one in the U.S. based on Native American land.
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