Updated: Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010, 11:38 PM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010, 11:38 PM MDT
U.S./MEXICO BORDER (KRQE) - State police, sheriff's departments and federal agents have stepped up their patrols along the U.S.'s border with Mexico, but residents in the region are still concerned about safety.
On Saturday, an Arizona rancher was murdered near the state line and New Mexico's boot heel.
Investigators said Robert Krentz was likely killed by someone who came in from Mexico. Tracks form the murder scene led back across the border which is 20 miles away.
Like many farmers and ranchers living along the border, James Johnson has warned for years that lives were in danger.
"My father was held up at gunpoint in '91. And it's always been in the back of our minds that another tragedy could happen," Johnson said. "We're here 24 hours a day. You know, these border patrol guys, they come to work and they are gone in 10 hours."
The Johnson farm and ranch sprawls across more than 100,000 acres, supplying wheat, cotton, vegetables and cattle.
A collection of low steel pipes is all there is to the border with Mexico. It's easily penetrated by drug smugglers, aliens and other ne'er-do-wells.
"State game and fish has a lot of problems with some of the fencing designs because of wildlife moving back and forth. At what time do we say, you know what, National Security is more important than wildlife," Johnson said.
Johnson said there are a few more border patrol officers nowadays, but their effectiveness is cut because they commute hours each day from distant bases.
He and other border residents said they want more forward bases in the region.
Communication in the area ranges from poor to non-existent. The vast country is devoid of cell towers and some ranch radios reportedly never worked well.
"We've tried to work with Verizon; tried to get a tower built; tried to give them the land, tried to give them the power; tried to do anything to get a cell phone tower. Everybody would be basically an informant," Johnson said. "They could put up road signs along the way that say 'See suspicious activities, call the proper authorities.'"
Ranchers welcome the increased law enforcement presence and said they hope officers will stay long enough to make a difference.