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  4. San Diego Sector Launches New Marine Unit

San Diego Sector Launches New Marine Unit

Release Date
Tue, 06/22/2021

Border Patrol to use SAFE boats to disrupt maritime smuggling

SAN DIEGO — U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), San Diego Sector (SDC), today, formally introduced its newly-established Marine Unit outfitted with two Secured Around Flotation Equipped (SAFE) boats.

The newly formed unit will begin patrolling the coastal waters within the San Diego Sector area of operations to join other agencies in securing the U.S. coastline in California.

25 foot SAFE boat
This is one of two 25' SAFE boats that the
U.S. Border Patrol is using to patrol coastal
waters within the San Diego Sector area of

“Amid the backdrop of ongoing, sustained human smuggling attempts along the California coastline, we have established a Marine Unit to partner with other law enforcement agencies and act as a force multiplier to disrupt the increase in maritime smuggling operations,” said SDC Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke.  “We will take every opportunity to disrupt attempts to illegally enter the U.S., and with the addition of these two SAFE boats, those opportunities now include maritime avenues.”

Maritime smuggling is inherently dangerous which became painfully clearer when in early May along the coast of San Diego an attempt to smuggle more than 30 people into the United States turned deadly after the smuggling boat broke apart along a reef at Point Loma. The result was three deaths and the significant injury of over 20 others onboard.

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection strengthens its border security on land, criminal organizations have shifted to using the ocean for their illicit activities. Specifically, SDC saw a nearly 93% increase in maritime smuggling cases and apprehensions from FY 19 to FY 20. FY 21 is on pace to push past those numbers.

In FY19, SDC recorded 194 maritime smuggling events and 660 subsequent apprehensions. This was followed in FY20 with 309 maritime smuggling events interdicted resulting in 1,273 subsequent apprehensions: an all time high for maritime smuggling events within the sector.

So far in FY21, SDC has interdicted 200 maritime smuggling events resulting in 1,260 apprehensions.

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please call the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834, ext. 1 or call 9-1-1, and you will be directed through the proper channels.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a member agency of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM). Other members include federal, and state and local law-enforcement agencies operating in Southern California.  The ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the California coastal border.

Last Modified: Jun 22, 2021