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Strategic Drug Threat Developments

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CBAG Overview

The CBAG region, which consists of San Diego and Imperial Counties and encompasses California's entire 145-mile portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, is a principal drug smuggling corridor for illicit drugs entering the country from Mexico. DTOs use the border area to smuggle significant quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin into the CBAG region.

The population of the CBAG region, along with that of the Mexican cities located along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, accounts for 60 percent of the population along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. San Diego, California, the largest U.S. city on the U.S.-Mexico border, and its sister city1 Tijuana, the second-largest Mexican city on the border, have a combined population greater than that of any other border area. The cultural connections among the large population in the California-Mexico border area enable drug traffickers to exploit familial ties and extensive contacts on both sides of the border to assist in drug trafficking operations.

A high volume of cross-border vehicle and foot traffic facilitates illicit drug smuggling from Mexico into the CBAG region. The daily movement of individuals and goods across the border provides innumerable opportunities for traffickers to conceal smuggling activities with legitimate traffic. Mexican DTOs typically enter the CBAG region at or between the six land POEs along the U.S.-Mexico border in California: Andrade, Calexico East, Calexico West, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, and Tecate. The Otay Mesa POE is the busiest commercial border crossing between California and Mexico. In 2006, the latest year for which data are available, the Otay Mesa POE handled more than 1.4 million trucks and $28.6 billion worth of goods crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in both directions, an amount that represents the third-highest dollar value of trade among all land border crossings between the United States and Mexico. Another $1.2 billion in merchandise and more than 140,000 trucks crossed at the Tecate POE.

An extensive highway and rail transportation network facilitates commercial trade and traffic across the border, creating an ideal environment for drug trafficking operations. Mexican DTOs transport illicit drugs across the border using private and commercial vehicles, buses, rail, and package delivery services. Once in the United States, drugs typically are transported overland along Interstates 5, 8, 15, and 805, highways that link the region to drug markets throughout the United States. (See Figure 1 in Preface.)

The CBAG region also is vulnerable to air and maritime smuggling from Mexico. DTOs use commercial and private aircraft to smuggle illicit drugs from Mexico into and through the region. Additionally, DTOs use small watercraft to retrieve drugs either in Mexico or from larger ships located offshore and transport them into the area by blending with commercial and recreational maritime traffic.

End Note

1. Sister cities are separate border cities located in proximity to one another; one of the cities is located in Mexico and the other in the United States. These cities often constitute binational and bicultural communities between which a high volume of individuals commute for work or school daily.

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