Cocaine Smugglers Endure Record Losses in 2005 from Persistant Law Enforcement Scrutiny
COAST GUARD ISLAND, ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Coast Guard will offload approximately 11.5 tons of cocaine worth about $750 million here today completing the final act of the Coast Guard’s second straight record-breaking year for drug interdictions.
This victory in securing the American homeland from the harmful effects of these drugs was the result of close coordination between DEA, FBI, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Joint Interagency Task Force South, U.S. Attorney's office, Panama Express South, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security.
“Operations like Panama Express help to protect our borders and keep drugs off of our streets. Coordination in an operation of this size is essential and necessary. Without the dedication of many agencies to this operation we would not have had the success we do today,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier Peña.
The Coast Guard seized approximately 150 tons of cocaine during the 2005 federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2004, and ending Sep. 30, 2005, which shattered the previous record of 120 tons established during the 2004 fiscal year. The street value of the cocaine seized this year is estimated at about $9.5 billion, representing more than 100 million hits of cocaine that were taken out of circulation. These figures include about 93 tons of cocaine seizures, roughly sixty-two percent of the total, from the eastern Pacific Ocean along the coast of Central and South America, as well as those conducted in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and along the U.S. Atlantic coast.
“America can be proud of the exemplary record set by Coast Guard and Navy ship personnel and Coast Guard, Navy and Customs and Border Protection aircraft crews in action against illegal narcotic drug smugglers,” said Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, adding, “Our success is a direct reflection of the many dedicated military, security and law enforcement professionals working to protect America’s borders.”
The cocaine being offloaded today was seized in three separate interdictions. The following details apply:
The Coast Guard is seeing an increase in drug interdictions as the counter-drug intelligence and technology continues to improve, and inter-agency coordination yields a better use of capabilities and resources. During the months of August and September, Coast Guard and Navy ships with Coast Guard law enforcement detachments stopped 11 separate attempts to smuggle significant amounts of cocaine into the U.S. via the eastern Pacific Ocean maritime trafficking routes.
“We must continue to refine our counter-drug network and improve sensor technology to prevent these drugs from reaching America’s streets in the future,” said Johnson.
The U.S. Attorney’s office Tampa, Fla., and Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South, in Key West, Fla., play critical roles in successful counter-drug operations. These organizations provide the operational intelligence and planning that the Coast Guard uses when conducting counter-drug operations, as well as evidence preservation support to help ensure successful prosecutions. The U.S. Navy provides additional ships and aircraft to assist Coast Guard interdiction efforts. A Coast Guard law enforcement detachment always embarks aboard the ships to board suspect vessels. DEA and CBP both provide aircraft support, and the FBI provides vital case and prosecution support.
Coast Guard counter-drug efforts continued during the Coast Guard’s unprecedented disaster response along the U.S. Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Despite the deployment of more than 3,800 personnel and a vast array of resources for the hurricane response, the Coast Guard maintained all of its normal homeland security responsibilities.
“The Coast Guard is dedicated to providing the best possible security for America, even while simultaneously performing an emergency response effort of historical proportions,” Johnson said.