Over the years, gun violence in Mexico, particularly where drug cartels are involved, has steadily increased. More than 70 percent of recent documented murders have been committed with firearms, many of which were obtained in the U.S. before being smuggled into Mexico. Straw purchases at gun stores, gun shows, online, or through person-to-person sales often serve as the initial node in the supply chain, and are usually financed with cash from drug trafficking.
To combat this threat, the Department of Homeland Security launched Operation Without a Trace, a unified effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to fight the illegal trafficking of guns and ammunition from the United States into Mexico. Alongside the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), HSI and CBP identify, target, and investigate the financing, transportation, and communications methods employed by firearms procurement and smuggling networks in an effort to disrupt and dismantle their illegal gun trafficking operations.
Since the initiative’s inception in fiscal year 2020, Operation Without a Trace has achieved significant success preventing Mexico-bound gun trafficking, resulting in the initiation of 353 investigations, the execution of 227 arrests, the service of 62 search warrants, and the seizure of 542 firearms, nearly 500,000 rounds of ammunition, and $16.5 million in illicit currency.
Confidential tips from the public reporting incidents of illegal firearms smuggling have been a major contributor to the success of Operation Without a Trace. HSI, CBP and ATF have launched an information campaign to increase public awareness about how to provide confidential tips to law enforcement, and are encouraging the public to report any information on transnational organized crime networks and actors involved in cross-border weapons trafficking activities.
Tips can be submitted by calling 1 (866) 347-2423 from the U.S. and Canada, or 1 (802) 872-6199 from any country in the world, or can be submitted via an online form at www.ice.gov/tips. Information received will be kept fully confidential and relayed to HSI or its partners for appropriate action.