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DEA proposes tip line for drug information

SANTA FE, N.M. — Anonymous texts could be sent direct to a DEA agent

The Drug Enforcement Agency wants to make it easier for people to inform on drug dealers in their neighborhoods.

A pair of billboards, one in English and another in Spanish, went up along U.S. 84/285 between Santa Fe and Española recently. At a news conference in front of one of them Wednesday, government and law enforcement officials said they are advertising an anonymous text messaging service that can put people directly in touch with a DEA agent at any time.

Joseph Arabit, special agent in charge of the DEA’s El Paso office, said the service has been in place for about a year and a half in Albuquerque, and about two years in El Paso, where it generated 130 and 300 complaints about drug trafficking, respectively.

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“Most have led to some sort of arrest or disruption,” Arabit said of the program’s tips.

The anonymity of the service allows people to discreetly communicate their suspicions with agents in real time without fear of retaliation, the officials at the news conference said. Arabit said some tippers could be eligible for rewards, similar to the Crime Stoppers program. Arabit said the DEA-sponsored program is run through a third-party system called Citizen Observer.

U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said that, in light of heroin and prescription drug overdose deaths in Española and Santa Fe, and Rio Arriba counties, the tip line could be useful.

“Sometimes there’s no better information than what comes from the public,” Gonzales said.

Española’s Public Safety Director Eric Garcia said the program would be a useful tool, but only if people use it.

“We have to have the buy-in from our community,” he said.

To use the program, send a text to TIP(847)-411 followed by the words “drugs” or “drogas,” followed by details about what you have observed.


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