The community of Roswell, New Mexico, population 50,000, is known for its hospitality, for always welcoming out-of-town visitors seeking to have an “out of this world” experience. But according to its Police Chief Philip Smith, Roswell has another “bittersweet” story to tell.
“We have many illicit drug-peddling reprobates residing in our city and the surrounding Chaves County,” Smith said. “It should be alarming and eye-opening that this hardworking blue-collar community has such an underbelly eroding at the very quality of life here in Roswell.”
In addition to above-the-national-average property and violent crime, Roswell (and the surrounding six counties located in the Pecos Valley region) have served over the years as a major transit point for cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine smuggled from the New Mexico/Texas border to cities throughout the United States. An abundance of remote, desolate, and rugged terrain also provides an excellent environment for the production of methamphetamine and the storage of drug shipments just north of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.
As a direct response to local law enforcement’s requests for DEA assistance, and to further investigative efforts throughout the southeastern region of the state of New Mexico, the El Paso Division set up a Post of Duty (POD) in Roswell in October 2019.
“DEA agents joined forces with local, state, tribal and other federal law enforcement agencies in the region,” said Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson. “We are proud to work with our partners, leveraging our respective resources to pursue those who threaten our communities.”
The new POD members identified a vast and highly sophisticated Roswell-based drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for the distribution of hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine. In November 2020, DEA led a large-scale takedown operation which resulted in the arrest of 17 individuals and the execution of four federal search warrants. Agents seized about half a pound of methamphetamine, six firearms, four vehicles, and approximately $6,000 in U.S. currency from various members of the DTO. Prior to this operation, agents had made nine arrests and seized more than $51,000 in assets and U.S. currency and seized more than 120 pounds of methamphetamine.
Days later, the United States Marshal Service (USMS) led a second operation where 82 individuals, who were supplied by members of the Roswell DTO, were arrested on state felony drug trafficking charges. Other agencies who worked with DEA, USMS and Roswell PD on both operations included HSI Roswell, FBI Roswell, ATF Roswell, New Mexico State Police, Chavez County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Pecos Valley Drug Task Force and the Lea County Drug Task Force.
“The high-impact initiative represents intense effort by all area law enforcement partners who are committed to making our communities safer and to aggressively reduce violent crime,” said Sonya K. Chavez, U.S. Marshal for the District of New Mexico. “The cooperation demonstrated in these operations clearly showcases what we are capable of when we work together to safeguard and protect the public from those who endanger it.”