Updated: Monday, 26 Jul 2010, 10:36 PM MDT
Published : Monday, 26 Jul 2010, 10:36 PM MDT
HIDALGO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) - State agricultural inspectors are now accompanied by armed sheriff’s deputies while working in far southern New Mexico because of escalating violence along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“We’re out in the middle of nowhere here,” livestock scale inspector David Turning of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture told KRQE News 13.
Turning was one of two scale inspectors escorted by deputies Monday from the Luna and Hidalgo county sheriff’s departments in a program funded by the Homeland Security Department’s “Operation Stone Garden”.
“We did a perimeter check making sure there’s nobody out hiding in the brush close by us,” Luna County Sgt. Steve Gallegos said.
The inspectors’ job takes them to some of the most remote and dangerous sections of New Mexico.
The livestock scale sites sit miles from the nearest homes and businesses with little to no cell phone service.
Evidence of drug smuggling has popped up in and around the scales.
“Our concern is, we just come in and do our jobs and go about our merry way and not have to worry about our safety,” Turning said.
The inspectors will tackle 32 annual scale inspections along the international border over the next three to four days with deputies by their side the entire time.
Law enforcement officers said the escorts are a good idea because certain sections of southern New Mexico are especially dangerous.
“It’s pretty crazy out there,” Hidalgo County Cpl. Gary Lassiter said. “We have Mexican nationals that we have on our side with guns in the mountains.”