Like methamphetamine, heroin is seized in large amounts at the busy U.S. Customs and Border Protection ports of entry rather than at U.S. Border Patrol stations.

And, like meth, the amount seized is rising.

Between 2005 and 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 7,400 pounds of heroin at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. The yearly haul in 2011 was nearly six times that of 2005. Border Patrol stations seized an additional 1,400 pounds of heroin, spread fairly evenly across the border region.

While that’s a lot of heroin, it’s nothing when you look at marijuana seizures.

But heroin in Mexico is causing the U.S. government to pay attention. In its 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, the U.S. Justice Department said, “The level of illicit poppy cultivation in Mexico was second only to that in Afghanistan in 2009, potentially producing an estimated 50 metric tons of heroin.”

As with meth, Mexico is ramping up its opium production, making the supply more available in the United States.

In fall 2011, a 17-month investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona led to a three-part mega-bust that resulted the arrest of 76 suspected smugglers and seizure of more than 61,000 pounds of pot, about 160 pounds of heroin and about 210 pounds of cocaine. You can watch how the epic operation went down, thanks to the agencies’ handy supply of media b-roll.

Notable port regions for heroin seizures in 2011:

For more information, check out our map of border drug seizures and user guide for more information.

Kelly Chen is a news engagement specialist at The Center for Investigative Reporting. She manages the day-to-day social media strategies and online engagement for CIR. In addition, she works to break down complex issues and ideas and create content for CIR's online communities. Kelly also works to increase engagement on cironline.org and on other online platforms. Previously, she produced discussion segments for PBS NewsHour and oversaw social media and engagement efforts for the American Graduate project, a public media initiative on the high school dropout crisis. She's also worked at Southern California Public Radio and National Geographic TV. A native of Los Angeles, she studied international relations and English at UC Davis.