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Violence vs. border agents increasing, they say

The Associated Press

Weapons in assaults by smugglers include vehicles and ‘big, honking rocks.’

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – As the U.S. Border Patrol steps up surveillance along the Arizona-Mexico border, smugglers are getting more desperate and agents say they are the victims of a dramatic increase in violence involving rocks and vehicles.

Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said there have been about the same number of assaults this year as there were at this time in 2003, but the degree of violence is significantly higher.

Smugglers have been ramming Border Patrol vehicles with cars and chasing down agents while driving or on foot. There also has been a rise in smugglers attacking agents with softball-sized rocks to divert their attention from border crossers.

“We’re not talking about the rocks you throw at the lake or around the neighborhood as a kid,” said Border Patrol spokesman Rob Daniels. “We’re talking about big, honking rocks.”

Adame said smugglers are losing money as enforcement is beefed up in Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point along the 2,000-mile border. “They’re starting to see some losses,” he said. “And when you talk financial gain with smugglers and the loss of it, they’re going to react violently.”

The most serious rock-throwing incidents result in agents losing consciousness and blood, and requiring hospital stays.

Steve McPartland, a Border Patrol agent in California, said he can’t count the number of times he has been attacked with rocks. The most memorable time was three years ago near Douglas, when a group of illegal immigrants pelted him with dozens of rocks at once.

“I was absolutely terrified,” he said. “You’re just thinking, ‘God, I hope the other guys get here quick.’”

Officials expect even more backlash from smugglers who are running out of places to cross into the United States.

Arizona ranked first among the four Southwestern states in apprehensions of illegal immigrants, with 403,000 last year.

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