SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - On Tuesday, San Diego Border Patrol agents introduced their newly formed marine unit with two 25-foot boats that are designed to help patrol the water for vessels that are attempting to smuggle in drugs and humans.
"As we have seen in recent events where lives have tragically been lost, these organizations treat smuggled people as a commodity, showing little to no regard for the lives of those that they are exploiting for profit," said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke during a press conference on Shelter Island.
In May, three people lost their lives in a wreck off the coast of Point Loma and another person died when a panga boat capsized off the shore of La Jolla.
According to agents, in FY2020, there were 309 maritime events with 1,273 arrests. In FY2021 to date, there have been 200 events with 1,260 arrests. "Our maritime apprehensions for FY2021 are certain to exceed the 1,273 apprehensions we had last year," added Chief Heitke.
Agents said that drug interceptions of have gone down but smugglers are bringing in more dangerous drugs than what they brought in during previous years, which was typically marijuana.
Such was the case last summer near Carlsbad. "In that incident, agents found 14 backpacks containing 439 pounds of methamphetamine, seven and a half pounds of heroin, and 21 pounds of fentanyl," he added.
Border Patrol agents have used boats in the past. The ones that agents showed off on Tuesday will be operating alongside partner vessels that are run by both Customs and Border Protection's Air and Marine Operations and by the U.S. Coast Guard.