A Mexican drug cartel has threatened deputies with the Cochise County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mark Dannels said earlier this week.

The sheriff shared the information with a small group of ranchers and homeowners gathered at the First Baptist Church in San Simon on Wednesday evening. The meeting was called so that residents could learn more about the situation with undocumented migrants coming across the border from Mexico.

Dannels told the crowd of about 25 people that the Mexican cartel is extremely organized on both sides of the border and no one crosses from Mexico into this country unless they pay a member of that organization first.

In a brief phone interview with the Herald/Review on Thursday, Dannels said of the cartel threat: “We have had threats and we’ve addressed it the best we can. We’re taking safety precautions to protect our deputies. If there are any new developments we will let the public know.”

Dannels told the group that the number of undocumented migrants coming through the border in Cochise County has grown from about 300 last spring to about 2,500 a month now.