PHOENIX — The Maricopa County sheriff's office launched a two-day crime and immigration sweep throughout metropolitan Phoenix on Thursday, marking the 14th such patrol ordered by Sheriff Joe Arpaio within the last two years.
Four hundred deputies and volunteer posse members were fanning out in communities in patrols that Arpaio said would target drug traffickers and the stash houses and vehicles used by immigrant smugglers.
"We feel very confident that maybe we can make some little dent in this problem," Arpaio said.
Within two hours after the sweep's start, deputies had arrested a dozen people and seized 4 pounds of methamphetamines and 275 pounds of marijuana. Five of the arrested people were illegal immigrants.
During the sweeps, deputies flood an area of a city – in some cases heavily Latino areas – to seek out traffic violators and arrest other alleged lawbreakers. Since early 2008 the sweeps have led to the arrests of 530 illegal immigrants.
Critics say Arpaio's deputies have racially profiled Hispanics. The sheriff denies the allegation, saying deputies approach people only when they have probable cause to believe people had committed crimes.
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Some Arpaio critics planned to drive around the area of the sweeps with video cameras to record exchanges between deputies and motorists.