More than a dozen law enforcement leaders from across New England are back on American soil after a trip to a spot they call "one of the most dangerous places on earth."
Four officers talked to NBC10 Boston about their unprecedented journey into the heart of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.
"Let's be clear, we are absolutely in the throes of the worst possible drug epidemic that this country has ever seen," said Jon DeLena, Associate Special Agent in Charge, DEA New England. "We're losing 77,000 Americans every year to a drug overdose."
Those staggering numbers are calling for a change in the war on drugs.
"We have to do things a little differently than ever before," said DeLena.
So, for the first time in their careers, a group of police leaders from New England took a trip to ground zero of the massive Mexican drug trade.
"The drugs that are on the streets of America, the majority of it, comes from the Sinaloa Cartel," said U.S. Marshal for the District of New Hampshire Nick Willard.
To get there, the group of 14 men and woman from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Baltimore, and Chicago boarded a Mexican military plane into Sinaloa.
A caravan protected by upwards of a hundred armed guards took them across the desert, through villages, and deep into a remote jungle.
"We were truly in one of the most dangerous places on planet earth," said New Hampshire State Police Col. Christopher Wagner.
They finally reached a sophisticated meth lab that had been shut down just days before. The 55 gallon drums of liquid meth were still intact.
Mexican officials say this particular lab was producing hundreds of millions of dollars of drugs every three days.
"That's just one lab," explained Wagner. "There are hundreds of these labs across Mexico."
And he says those Mexican drug labs are the reason we’ve seen an alarming uptick in methamphetamine on the streets of New England.
"That's the problem, understanding that we can't take our foot off the gas here, we are just getting started," said Wagner.
After an unprecedented trip across the border, our local leaders are encouraging police departments across the nation to take drug investigations as far as they can go.
"It's not enough to seize these drugs, what we have to do is indict them and get arrest warrants to bring people back into the US to face justice here in our country," said DeLena.
The group told NBC10 Boston they came home not only with a new perspective but a new appreciation for the dangerous work being done by the Mexican law enforcement community to save American lives.
"Their enthusiasm invigorated our group and made us want to do more and think outside the box," said the Chief U.S. Probation Officer for New Hampshire, Jonathan Hurtig.
"They wanted us to know from their heart, they're fighting just as hard as we are," said Wagner.