U.S./MEXICO BORDER (KRQE) - State police, sheriff's departments and federal agents havestepped up their patrols along the U.S.'s border with Mexico, butresidents in the region are still concerned about safety.
On Saturday, an Arizona rancher was murdered near the state lineand New Mexico's boot heel.
Investigators said Robert Krentz was likely killed by someonewho came in from Mexico. Tracks form the murder scene led backacross the border which is 20 miles away.
Like many farmers and ranchers living along the border, JamesJohnson has warned for years that lives were in danger.
"My father was held up at gunpoint in '91. And it's always beenin the back of our minds that another tragedy could happen,"Johnson said. "We're here 24 hours a day. You know, these borderpatrol guys, they come to work and they are gone in 10 hours."
The Johnson farm and ranch sprawls across more than 100,000acres, supplying wheat, cotton, vegetables and cattle.
A collection of low steel pipes is all there is to the borderwith Mexico. It's easily penetrated by drug smugglers, aliens andother ne'er-do-wells.
"State game and fish has a lot of problems with some of thefencing designs because of wildlife moving back and forth. At whattime do we say, you know what, National Security is more importantthan wildlife," Johnson said.
Johnson said there are a few more border patrol officersnowadays, but their effectiveness is cut because they commute hourseach day from distant bases.
He and other border residents said they want more forward basesin the region.
Communication in the area ranges from poor to non-existent. Thevast country is devoid of cell towers and some ranch radiosreportedly 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 todo anything to get a cell phone tower. Everybody would be basicallyan informant," Johnson said. "They could put up road signs alongthe way that say 'See suspicious activities, call the properauthorities.'"
Ranchers welcome the increased law enforcement presence and saidthey hope officers will stay long enough to make a difference.
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