Mexican drug cartels are increasing the flow of methamphetamine across the border, according to federal drug agents working in Phoenix.
DEA agents say they've had a 72 percent increase in meth seizures in Arizona over the last couple of years. They seized 5,650 pounds in the fiscal year of 2014 and 9,733 pounds just two years later, according to data from the National Seizure System. Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA's Phoenix field office, says Mexican drug cartels, including Sinaloa, control nearly 100 percent of the meth imported into the United States.
"Everything they push across is pure profit for them, so what they're trying to do is mass manufacture," Coleman said. "They don't have to worry about transportation fees, and can try to get more Americans addicted to this drug."
Smugglers have been caught with drugs hidden in cars, stuck in stacks of tortillas and even transported in liquid form, which looks like iced tea. Coleman says liquid meth needs a chemical drying process before it's sold on the streets.
"You dry it out, and you can ship the powdered form from Arizona," Coleman said. "We see some of those labs here. They're called conversion labs."
Stash houses in Tucson and Phoenix serve as distribution sites.
"[The] main cities Phoenix [supplies] are Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, even New York," Coleman said.
That means stopping the meth smugglers in Arizona has a national impact.
"Every time we make a seizure of 200 pounds of meth, we are saving a life," Coleman said. "Somewhere along the line, we are saving a life."