The United States Border Patrol plans to increase security along the Orange County coastline.
“You’re going to see more border patrol agents in your community,” said Steve McPartland from the Maritime Unified Command, which is composed of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
In 2010, border guard and Coast Guard officials made almost 1,000 interceptions of illegal immigrants trying to enter the country by sea in San Clemente, Dana Point and other Southern California coastal cities.
“I believe we should be as transparent as we should possibly be,” said Chief Border Patrol Agent for San Diego sector Paul Beeson at a town hall meeting Thursday night. “Human trafficking, narcotics trafficking are being smuggled on to our beaches.”
One of several cases in the Orange County area took place on February 15, where . Before that, another group came ashore at San Onofre State Beach. Small fishing boats called “pangas” carry around 27 people, or up to two tons of narcotics ashore, said border patrol officials.
“Everyone moves from the boat to the beach and if we’re not there on the spot, they’re gone,” McPartland said.
Although there have always been attempts of illegal maritime border crossings, the last three years have seen a quadrupled increase because of the decrease in the overall rate of illegal immigrants successfully crossing the border on land.
The illegal immigrants, as well as smugglers carrying narcotics are thought to be linked to Mexican cartels, but officials could not identify a specific crime organization.
“The vast majority of people crossing the border, whether it’s with or without narcotics, don’t cross through the border without being involved with a criminal organization,” said Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Justin De La Torre. “ The cartel wants to make money and we want to dismantle this organization by geographically targeting it at the source.”
It's estimated that illegal immigrants pay between $5,000 and $7,000 a person to cross the border through these criminal organizations.
Officials said the pangas, and/or jet skis typically depart from Ensenada or Rosarito, Mexico and head 40 miles out to sea. The water crafts land on the Orange County coastline in the early morning hours where vans await their arrival to take them to safe houses.
Multiple agency coordination along with land, air and water surveillance are the current plan to stop the human smuggling.
To report any suspicious activity, please call the Joint Harbor Operations Center: 1- 800-854-9834, or contact Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center: firstname.lastname@example.org