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Spike in meth seen from Mexico as US production low

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2015 | 6:00 AM
In this June 10 photo provided by US Customs and Border Protection, an officer rips apart an ice chest that has packages of hard drugs wrapped around a hollowed-out shell that was in a car driven by a Mexican man accused of carrying five pounds of heroin and five pounds of methamphetamine, seized at the US-Mexico border port of entry in Nogales, Arizona.

TUCSON, Arizona (AP):

Seizures of methamphetamine in Arizona so far this fiscal year have already surpassed last year's total, continuing an upward trend for the drug that officials say is much easier and cheaper to manufacture in Mexico.

US Customs and Border Protection officers at Arizona ports of entry have seized more than 3,240 pounds of meth between October and May,

compared with 3,200 pounds for the entire last fiscal year. The federal government's fiscal year ends September 30.

Drug in demand

"We started noticing the increase with meth in fiscal year 2014, so we noticed an increment on crystal meth, and obviously, it all starts from the demand, you know. They're demanding this drug," agency spokeswoman Marcia Armendariz said.

The popularity of meth is not new to the border, but federal officials say the spike in seizures both at the border and within the country has raised eyebrows. Authorities also say heroin smuggling has increased over the past several years.

At six Southern California border crossings, authorities have seized 9,431 pounds of meth between October and April, a figure that could surpass the 14,732 pounds officers found in all of the last fiscal year.

In Arizona, drug smugglers have become more creative in how they try to bring hard drugs into the country. In one recent case, a woman had methamphetamine molded into the shape of a brassiere that she wore when she tried to cross into Arizona, Armendariz said.

Liquefying meth

One other popular form of transporting meth is by liquefying it. Armendariz said liquid meth is not that common at Arizona ports, but officials say it is a popular method for smugglers to go undetected in other ports. Crystal meth is dissolved in a solution and then later crystalised again. In one case, the meth officers found had been liquefied and placed in the washer fluid of a car, Armendariz said.

Liquid meth can also be stored in the second gas tanks that many large trunks have, said Matt Barden, a spokesman with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. About four pounds of meth can be formed from each gallon of liquid meth, he said.