SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A growing number of smugglers are risking lives to try to sneak people into San Diego on a boat.
"When we are out here we look for vessels that do not fit in," says Matthew Gable.
Gable is a Marine Interdiction Agent with U.S. Customs & Border Protection. He is one of many agents who patrol the waters from San Francisco to San Diego.
CBP says over the last seven months, agents in San Diego County have encountered over 100,000 people trying to get to the U.S. illegally by land and sea.
Gable says he has seen an increase in smugglers on the water. They are either trying to relocate to our country or bring drugs.
Many of them are on small panga boats and ride in the middle of the night. Gable says some of them go out 80 miles off shore, to avoid detection.
"They are overloaded. They have too many people on board. They are leaking fuel. It is very dangerous. Once we can stop them safely, we make sure to get them to shore," Gable says.
Gable says the waves can get up to 14 feet out on the water. That makes it dangerous for CBP agents in search and rescue, and also the smugglers heading towards the beach.
"When people come in and land a vessel in the middle of the night, there are breaker waves. The probability of the boat overturning is high," he adds.
At least eight people died in March when two panga boats crashed near Black's Beach. In 2021, four people lost their lives when a boat capsized near Point Loma.
Officials say both were smuggling operations.
To report smuggling on the water you can call 1-800-854-9834 or call 911.