ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - From families on their way to Disneyland to big rigs hauling goods to be sold across the country, thousands and thousands of cars travel across New Mexico on Interstate 40 every day.
But, according to police, intermingled among the legitimate travelers are an astounding number of criminals. In fact, New Mexico State Police Sgt. Arcenio Chavez estimated that one in seven cars on I-40 at any given time are up to no good.
"It's pretty much 24/7 on I-40," Chavez said. "Handguns, of course narcotic smuggling, people smuggling."
Albuquerque is a hot spot for crime because of the intersection of I-40 and Interstate 25, which is a conduit for drugs, guns and money coming up from Mexico, Chavez said. So now, because there's simply too much traffic and too few state cops to keep up with it, the feds are getting involved.
"There's very little enforcement on there," said Kevin Abar, an official with Homeland Security Investigations in Albuquerque. "It's very important that we do the enforcement on I-40 and make the difference here in the state."
Still, state police are making their share of busts.
In February, officers discovered 17 pounds of methamphetamine after pulling over a car near Route 66 Casino Hotel west of Albuqueruqe.
"You figure a person only needs a gram to get high, so that would be a lifetime supply of meth or heroin," Chavez said.
And then there's the big trucks.
Officers from New Mexico Motor Transportation Police stopped a trucker last year carrying 469 pounds of marijuana. The same day, officers found 428 pounds of marijuana, 170 pounds of cocaine, eight pounds of heroin and a pound of hashish in another semi-truck.
Along with the drugs also comes a lot of money. However, instead of stacks of bills, traffickers and criminals now prefer to put cash on credit cards, which are much more portable. For example, last month officers discovered 150 credit cards during a stop on 1-40 in Albuquerque.
"Those credit cards were located in the spare tire underneath the vehicle," Chavez said. "They were actually duct-taped to the rim."
Police are also on the lookout for career criminals. In March, officers stopped a convicted felon from Texas on his way to California with four unregistered handguns and ammunition, Chavez said.
"We don't know what they're capable of doing," he said.
However, headlines in the last few years indicate otherwise.
In July 2011, two suspected murderers from Arizona drove I-40 to Albuquerque and left their victim's body in a car at the Sunport before hopping a plane to North Carolina.
And one of the most horrific cases in recent years involved Arizona prison escapees who hijacked a camper in August 2010 and killed an Oklahoma couple. Their bodies were found just three miles north of I-40 near Santa Rosa.
Abar said federal agents are also in the lookout for human trafficking along I-40. And while he said they haven't yet found very much, it's definitely out there.
"It's huge -- the amount of child exploitation that goes on, not just in New Mexico, but across the country," he said.
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