By Rubin E. Grant
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis went to Mexico last month, but it was no vacation.
On Sept. 11, Derzis accompanied a delegation of 12 law enforcement leaders from across Alabama on a 72-hour covert trip to Mexico to get a firsthand look at the drug trade.
The delegation was briefed in Mexico City at the highest levels and visited the State of Sinaloa, home of the Sinaloa cartel. About 90 percent of the drugs that come into the United States and Alabama are supplied by and from the Sinaloa cartel.
The delegation traveled nearly 5,500 miles and constantly was under the heavily armed protection of United States and Mexican law enforcement as they went to “see, hear and smell” the sophistication of the illegal narcotics trade in Mexico.
“What this trip did for me was to see the poison that’s being produced in (Mexico) that is coming here and killing people in the community that I serve,” Derzis said. “I take that personally.”
Those who made the trip were Derzis; Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall; Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay Town; Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin; Southern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Richard Moore; DEA Supervisor Sean Stephen; ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor; Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner; Alabama District Attorney’s Association Executive Director Barry Matson; Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard; Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Birmingham, New Orleans Division Clay Morris; and Bryan Taylor, general counsel for the governor’s office.
They said the overall message was clear: narcotics trafficking and production in Mexico is dominating the drug trade in the United States. Heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and even cocaine coming from Columbia are trafficked into the United States from Mexico.
“With the legalization of marijuana in some states in America, we don’t see much marijuana coming out of Mexico,” Derzis said. “We’re mostly dealing with the meth trade. When you think about cartels, you have to think about meth labs.”
The delegation visited a clandestine meth lab that had been seized by the DEA 15 days before the Alabama lawmen arrived. More than 70 law enforcement officers had spent two weeks protecting the site until the delegation came to see it.
Until it was seized, the lab produced three tons of crystal meth – 90% to 100% pure – a week. That was the equivalent of 24,000 pounds a month, which was capable of earning $1.44 billion a year.
“And that was just one lab, so you can imagine how much more is being produced,” Derzis said.
Derzis said Hoover law enforcement is starting to deal with more meth on its streets.
“It’s cheap to produce and it’s selling in abundance,” he said.
To combat the infiltration, Derzis said more arrests must be made.
“We’re trying to stop some of the demand and stop the supply,” he said. “It’s going to take everybody in law enforcement working together to do that.”
That is precisely why the Alabama lawmen made the trip to Mexico.
“Collectively, we will not tolerate the destruction drug trafficking brings to our great state,” Morris said. “We witnessed firsthand the lengths Mexican drug cartels will go to fuel the disease of addiction. We are resolved to do everything in our power to stem the flow (of) drugs into Alabama.”