SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection and federal partners will increase patrols off the coast of San Diego on Labor 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.”
Since October 1, 2020, San Diego Sector Border Patrol has intercepted 330 maritime related events and made 1,751 arrests associated with those events.
“Smuggling along the California coastline is inherently dangerous for all of the involved parties,” said Aaron Heitke, Chief Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Sector. “I’m thankful that our agents and partners stand ready to combat all threats against our coastal borders.”
From Friday, September 3 through Tuesday, September 7, federal law enforcement partners will allocate extra assets to coastal patrols covering the land, air, and sea. San Diego residents will see an increase in numerous law enforcement and public safety agencies all along the San Diego coastline and beaches, as well as marinas and the San Diego Bay. If San Diego residents see smuggling-related activity, call the Joint Harbor Operations Center at (800) 854-9834*1 to report suspicious activity, or 9-1-1 for emergencies.
“Our agents remain committed to securing our borders against any unlawful incursions”, Heitke said. “Community members play a vital role in assisting our operations. We are grateful for their continued support. We ask that any person, who sees or hears something they believe to be suspicious or illegal in nature, to contact the U.S. Border Patrol or other local law enforcement agency.”
Through the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM), law enforcement officials in the San Diego region routinely 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 the holiday weekend, when officials typically see an 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.
“With increased recreational boating traffic during Labor Day Weekend, all mariners are reminded to remain vigilant in the practice of safe navigation and seamanship,” said CAPT Timothy Barelli, Sector Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “The safety of the public remains the primary focus of the Coast Guard, and it’s Federal, State, and local partners. Additional maritime patrols and safety checks will be conducted to bolster awareness and increase our response posture during this period. 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.”