SAN DIEGO — In an effort to deter individuals from considering dangerous attempts to illegally enter the U.S. by sea, law enforcement officials are increasing patrols off the coast of San Diego this Memorial Day weekend.
“Smugglers don’t adhere to boating safety standards. These are long and dangerous excursions, with overladen vessels traveling without navigational lights and no safety equipment,” said Brandon Tucker, Deputy Director of Air Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s, Air and Marine Operations, San Diego Air and Marine Branch. “People need to understand that they are risking their lives in the hands of smugglers who value only the money they are paid.”
From Friday, May 28, through Tuesday, June 1, federal law enforcement partners will dedicate extra resources to coastal patrols covering the land, air, and sea. San Diego residents will see an increase in various law enforcement and public safety agencies all along the San Diego coastline, including at beaches and marinas, in San Diego Bay, and out along the coast. Assets on the land and on the water will be working in conjunction with crews in helicopters and airplanes providing aerial patrols. If San Diego residents see smuggling-related activity, they are encouraged to call the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834 *1 to report any suspicious or potentially unsafe activities, or 9-1-1 for any emergencies.
“As a reminder to the public, if you see something out of the ordinary near the coast, don’t hesitate to call authorities,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, U.S. Border Patrol, San Diego Sector. “Recent maritime events have demonstrated that smugglers exploit migrants and put lives in significant danger for their own profit.”
Through the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM), law enforcement officials in the San Diego region routinely coordinate to: share intelligence; coordinate assets for coverage, patrols, and response; leverage resources dedicated to securing San Diego waterways; plan operations; and more. ReCoM partners, in addition to their standard patrols, perform targeted operations as conditions dictate and resources permit. Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including Air and Marine Operations, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Office of Field Operations, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, have worked with law enforcement and public safety partners to target this upcoming holiday weekend, when officials typically see a large increase in legitimate recreational boating traffic. In southern California, criminal organizations often try to take advantage of recreational traffic in attempts to blend in and obscure their smuggling activities.
All boaters are reminded to be safe this Memorial Day weekend.
“Preparing for the start of the recreational boating season, the U.S. Coast Guard reminds all mariners to use good judgement, and practice safe navigation and seamanship at all times,” said CDR Seth Parker, Deputy Sector Commander, USCG Sector San Diego. “To ensure the safety of the public, the U.S. Coast Guard, along with its Federal, State, and local partners, will be increasing its maritime patrols and safety checks for the Memorial Day Weekend. As a reminder, if you or someone you observe is in danger or see something suspicious, please contact the Coast Guard on VHF Ch 16 or local authorities by dialing 911.”