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Historic accord creates law enforcement association linking Mexico and the U.S.

May 18, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

In what has been hailed as a historic accord, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from both sides of the border have created a liaison association to foster a more formal spirit of cooperation.

On Friday some 100 representatives of law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border met at the El Centro Police Activities League building to witness the signing of a document creating the association.

Named IMMEX — which joins together the Imperial and Mexicali names — the association looks beyond the border that separates the countries.

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While there have been liaison efforts before, the creation of IMMEX will be more sweeping because of the number of agencies that will be involved at the local, state and federal levels. The ultimate goal is to send a message to criminals that it doesn't matter on what side of the border they commit a crime; they will be caught.

The agencies that took part in Friday's signing were the U.S. Border Patrol, the county Sheriff's Office, the El Centro Police Department and from Baja California, the state attorney general's office, the state secretary of public safety, and the state preventive police.

There were a number of other local law enforcement agencies present to witness the signing.

Border Patrol Agent Dionicio Delgado said the signing is important to show agencies on both sides of the border are working together and looking to continue to do so.

He added, "Never before have we seen so much cooperation."

Imperial County Sheriff Harold Carter was involved in the signing ceremony.

"Because of our proximity to the border and the activity along the border, we are tied together," Carter said, adding agencies on both sides of the border have been working to foster strong relationships.

"We just have to continue it," he said.

Alfredo Arenas Moreno, who heads the international liaison unit for the state preventive police and the state attorney general's office in Baja California, said agencies signed such agreements in the past.

However, he said this is the most sweeping effort proposed between the Imperial and Mexicali valleys. He said the goal is to exchange information, train together and meet once a month to discuss common issues.

Arenas said law enforcement agencies want to make things even tougher on criminals by assuring there is nowhere on either side of the border they can escape arrest.

Arenas read a statement during the event regarding the importance of the signing.

"It is important to mention that cross-border crime affects both our communities, and that both American and Mexican authorities find themselves limited in actions they can take to prevent this because of limits set forth such as laws, treaties and other international legal statutes."

Arenas continued, "Unfortunately, criminals do not have such restrictions. They can break law and evade justice — taking advantage of these limitations to commit crimes." IMMEX, he said, can help shore up some of those limitations law enforcement agencies face.

Bernardo Martinez Aguirre, secretary of public safety in Baja California, said the creation of IMMEX is a critical step.

"We truly believe it is important to formalize this relationship and to continue our commitment," Martinez said.

Carter said the leadership of agencies must come together to enable their offices to do the best job possible protecting citizens on either side of the border.

"Together we can do it better than we can separately," he said.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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