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September 02, 2005
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New steps taken to reduce border crime

NOGALES, Ariz. - Governors of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora on Friday announced new steps to make the border region safer and to combat border-related crime but said they want their federal governments to do more.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sonoran Gov. Eduardo Bours spoke Friday at a news conference on a blocked-off street at a border crossing point.

Napolitano announced that the state Department of Public Safety will create a new detail of officers to work with local law enforcement agencies to target vehicle theft -- a crime often linked to transporting of illegal immigrants -- and to gather intelligence to identify people taking large amounts of cash from the United States to Mexico.

In addition, police in the border-area cities of Nogales, Bisbee and San Luis and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department will use newly provided state money to assign dozens more officers to combat vehicle theft, drug trafficking and other border-related crime, Napolitano said.

The state money being used by the local law enforcement agencies comes from $1.5 million authorized under an emergency declaration Napolitano made Monday for four border counties. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made a similar declaration Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, Bours announced the establishment of four new checkpoints in Sonora where officers will try to identify and detain people engaged in smuggling and vehicle theft.

Both governors said they felt compelled to act, at least in part, because their respective federal governments have been slow to tackle border crime and security concerns.

Governor Napolitano summed it up this way: "More illegal immigrants from Mexico enter the United States through Arizona than through any other U.S. state. Arizona's taxpayers continue to carry an unfair share of the tax burden. We can no longer afford to wait on the federal government to live up to its responsibility."

Bours, speaking through an interpreter, said he didn't want to lay blame.

"Nevertheless, this is a situation that the federal government is in charge of," he said. "I am sure that the people of Arizona and Sonora will not accept that the governments of Arizona and Sonora not do anything in this situation."

Similarly, Napolitano said border security is a federal responsibility. "But as a state governor, I must acknowledge that our federal government has fallen short."

Also Friday, Napolitano signed an executive order creating a new council to coordinate efforts and information sharing between the two states, while Bours said Sonora will provide Arizona law enforcement authorities with seven radios that will allow them to check on Sonoran vehicle registrations.

The two governors previously agreed on such steps as preparing a contingency plan and other procedures for emergencies, developing a database on critical facilities, creating a joint command center, trying to find financing for health centers and promoting anti-terrorism exercises.

Arizona is the nation's busiest illegal entry point on the porous U.S.-Mexico border.

Napolitano in July ordered the DPS to assign a dozen officers to assist local police and federal agents in immigration cases, but she said the launch of the pilot program has been slowed by federal officials.

"We got a stone wall," she said Friday.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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