The Tucson Sector has in recent years become the most active along the international border.
Of the 723,000 apprehensions the Border Patrol made in fiscal 2009, nearly 241,000 were in the Tucson Sector alone. While high, the figure actually represents a trend of decreased arrests in the Tucson Sector and along the border as a whole.
Apprehensions peaked in 2000, with 1.6 million nationwide and 616,000 in the Tucson Sector. Since then, apprehension figures have generally fallen on an annual basis, according to the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics.
"The Border Patrol has seen a steady decline in the number of apprehensions within the Tucson Sector," said Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante. "We now have better technology, more infrastructures, and more personnel than ever before. The proper mix of these elements, along with our defense in-depth strategy, combines to give the Border Patrol more situational awareness now than at any point in our history."
Arizona also remains one of the nation's drug-smuggling hot zones, with untold tons of contraband entering the country through the state.
Recent border initiatives that federal law enforcement agencies have undertaken — including the addition of hundreds more Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector, where today 3,000 agents work — have netted an increase in contraband seizures along the southern border.
"Over the last several years our agency has grown tremendously not only in personnel but in tactical infrastructure and technology to the field of operation," Escalante said. "In other words, looking at the apprehension statistics would indicate that the increase in personnel, technology and infrastructure is having a deterrent effect and fewer people are attempting to cross."
In a speech at the Brookings Institute last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said confiscations of drugs, weapons and money in the Southwest had all increased significantly.
Since March 2009, drug seizures increased 15 percent to 1.65 million kilos; firearm seizures were up 29 percent; and currency confiscations had increased nearly 40 percent, with $85.7 million taken, Napolitano said.
A large portion of that enforcement work takes place in the wilds between the border and Tucson.
Tucson Sector apprehensions
Year Nationwide Tucson Sector
2008 723,840 317,709
2007 876,787 378,323
2006 1,089,136 392,323
2005 1,189,108 430,090
2004 1,160,395 491,771
2003 931,557 347,263
2002 955,310 336,648
2001 1,266,214 449,675
2000 1,676,438 616,346
1999 1,579,010 270,449
Source: U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics