U.S. Coast Guard Sets New Record for Drug Busts
The Coast Guard seized a record-setting 190 tonnes of cocaine during the fiscal year ended September 30. The drugs were worth a combined $5.6 billion at U.S. wholesale value – an amount equal to 85 percent of the agency's total operating budget for the year, and more than three times its budget for drug interdictions.
The service noted that the tonnage it seized at sea outstripped the total seized on land (by all U.S. agencies) by a factor of three.
The service also transferred a record 465 suspects to the United States for prosecution and seized over 170 smuggling vessels, including six semi-submersibles.
The Eastern Pacific saw an especially high level activity: the crews of the cutters Valiant, Waesche and Bertholf offloaded double-digit tonnages of cocaine at San Diego every few months, with a regularity approaching a company's quarterly reports – 25 tons on the dock in November, 14 tons in April and 21 tons in June.
“I’m extremely proud of all the crews at sea, in the air and ashore who helped plan, coordinate, and perform these drug busts,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, commander of the Eleventh Coast Guard District, speaking earlier this year. “Their hard work denies the drug trafficking organizations millions of dollars in resources and helps save lives by keeping these drugs off our streets.”
The Coast Guard said in a statement that over the past two years, it has increased personnel and resources in known drug transit zones, added intelligence and investigative resources and strengthened its international partnerships targeting transnational organized crime in the Western Hemisphere.
The USCG emphasizes the role of organized crime in the smuggling routes and the damage that these groups do to societies all over the Americas.
“Here’s the deal that drug smugglers make with their customers: ‘We do the dirty work, you do the drugs’,” Servidio said. “The transnational criminal organizations behind the drug trade spread violence and instability wherever they operate. There are thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year from cocaine overdose, and the production, transportation, sale and use of cocaine exact a very heavy human and social price throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond.”
The crew of the cutter Bertholf with 14 tons of seized cocaine