With a couple of hundred deputies, the Pima County Sheriffs office has to police most of the county and safeguard almost half of its population (about a half-a-million people). Ask them what the biggest help has been in dealing with border crime, and Bureau Chief George Heaney, a long-time veteran of the force, is quick to respond—the build-up of the Border Patrol over the last few years.
The sheriff department, Heaney explains, does very little in the way of immigration enforcement. When they encounter someone suspected of being in the United States unlawfully “ninety nine times out of hundred,” Heaney finds, “we just turn them over to the Border Patrol.” The other area where the federal government has helped out a good deal is in supporting the department’s establishment of a first of its kind county “border crime unit.” That sounded like a really interesting initiative. Heaney offered to hook me up with some of the officers working the border detail and that was my next stop.