SAN DIEGO — USBP San Diego Sector (SDC) is strengthening its presence along California’s coastline in an effort to curb illegal human and drug smuggling routes being exploited by transnational criminal organizations. This effort concurrently prevents further introduction of COVID-19 into California communities.
Maritime smuggling has become common place along the Pacific coastline and SDC is proactively addressing the growing threat. Fiscal year to date, SDC Border Patrol has recorded 129 maritime events, which led to 485 arrests and the seizure of nearly 6,642 pounds of illegal drugs. This is compared to fiscal year 2019, when agents recorded 194 maritime events, which led to 660 arrests and more than 19,000 pounds of seized contraband.
Criminal organizations that exploit our Pacific border often use overloaded vessels that are not equipped to handle rough, ocean waters. The vessels also lack legally required safety lighting, are overcrowded with cargo and/or people, and have inferior engine and fuel compartments. These smuggling attempts often turn into rescue missions that require additional USBP assets as well as assets from other local first responders.
As an example, one February 2020 maritime event turned into a significant rescue operation.
To deter the illegal maritime events from occurring, SDC is deploying additional patrol units to the coastal border. This will include the use of the sector’s Horse Patrol Unit (HPU), which has been utilized since USBP’s inception. Nationwide, these units allow agents to patrol rugged terrain that is not easily accessible via 4×4 vehicles or ATV’s.
SDC’s official area of responsibility extends along the entire coast of California and includes areas that are difficult to access, which can hinder response times. With the deployment of HPU along the coastal areas, SDC will increase its ability to interdict maritime smuggling events and curb the spread of COVID-19.
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please call 9-1-1, and you will be directed through the proper channels.