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Sheriff concerned about violence, plans volunteer patrol

Herald/Review

BISBEE - Sheriff Larry Dever said Thursday that illegal immigrants are becoming more brazen putting the lives of Cochise County residents in jeopardy.

An extreme example of how dangerous the border situation has become is a Thursday morning carjacking, during which a woman and her daughter were assaulted at their residence by three Mexican nationals who illegally entered the United States, Dever said.

"They (illegal immigrants) are more desperate and obviously they don't care about American citizens," he said.

Dever said some illegal immigrants are showing up at school bus stops, and his deputies are patrolling those in rural areas near the border to make sure nothing happens.

The sheriff said a group of volunteers is needed to work with the deputies to keep on eye on school bus stops.

His department is working to set up such a program.

"It's still in its infant stage," Dever said.

Citizen complaints about problems involving illegal immigrants have increased, although the sheriff said he could not put a percentage of the increase.

He said the increase in complaints are tied to the upward trend of more illegal immigrants crossing the border into the United States through Cochise County.

Deputies also are finding larger groups of illegal immigrants.

"Now there are 30, 40 or 50 in a group," Dever said.

A couple of years ago, groups ranged from six to 10 people, he said.

With only 75 deputies to cover the county's 6,000 plus square miles, the sheriff said he does not have the personnel to deal with a failed federal policy.

Dever's voice reflected cool anger about the problems illegal immigrants are causing for the county's residents.

Until the federal government controls the border, the sheriff said the situation is going to continue to get worse and Cochise County residents will suffer.

And Dever said proposals about creating a new guest-worker program are doomed to fail unless the border is secured. U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake and U.S. Sen. John McCain, all Arizona Republicans, have offered up a guest-worker proposal, as has President George W. Bush.

"Without securing the border no socio-economic solution will be a success," Dever said about the proposals.

Thursday's incident left a woman, her daughter and their family in emotional distress, Dever said. He wants to meet with the family to express his concerns about what happened.

"They are going to have emotional scars for the rest of their lives. It (the carjacking and beatings) will be a bad memory for their entire life," Dever said.

The fortunate part of Thursday's incident was that the Sheriff's Department and U.S. Border Patrol worked together to capture three illegal immigrants allegedly involved in the carjacking and assaulting of the 35-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter.

U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Naco Station apprehended the three men.

"What was lacking was the prevention because the border is not secured," Dever said.

The surge in illegal immigrant activity in the county is a bad sign for the area's residents, he added.

"We have been fighting this battle for almost six years now. It is frankly remarkable that we have not experienced more of these kinds of events (the carjacking), given the large number of desperate people (illegal immigrants) traveling through residential areas," Dever said.

He asked that residents be more aware of their surroundings and call law enforcement agencies if they see anything amiss.

HERALD/REVIEW senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at bill.hess@svherald.com.

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