Drug cartels getting armed through U.S. connections

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Violence not only in border towns

PHOENIX - For years now the violence surrounding the drug trade has been growing to levels beyond the control of law enforcement.

Many think this violence only takes place across the border, but as 3TV found out it is a danger some people here in the Valley are contributing to.

A recent gun bust in Phoenix is a clear indication of how the drug cartels depend on their connections in the United States to obtain the weapons they need to continue their deadly battles. They are powerful, sophisticated weapons they cannot get in Mexico but are finding in the U.S.

Dozens of powerful weapons seized in the streets of Phoenix just within the last ten days.

"These are what we call weapons of choice," says ATF Special Agent in Charge Jim Needles.

The weapons were headed to drug lords south of the border. "This is what the drug cartels request from their traffickers to purchase for them," Needles explains.

One of the weapons is called a "mata policia" or cop killer. Rounds fired from that weapon will penetrate bullet-proof vests that law enforcement wears.

That arsenal alone was worth over $50,000. Needles says the violence connected to the drug cartels is not only a problem in Mexico. "It's not only in Mexico, it's not only violence along the border...it's violence in Tucson and it's violence in Phoenix," Needles says.

This includes a dramatic rise in kidnappings and home invasions in our backyard.

To fight the cartels the ATF and other federal authorities are working closer with their Mexican counterparts and are also attempting to trace weapons seized in Mexico, but the battle is far from over.

Needles admits, "We have to work together and we arein the Phoenix area."

Federal law enforcement officials say that drug cartel gangsters choose cities like Phoenix because of its numerous gun shops and its proximity to the border.