CBP marine patrol
A CBP marine patrol near San Diego. Courtesy of the agency

The Border Patrol announced Friday it will ramp up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling off San Diego this weekend following a recent spike in illegal entries.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits.”

From Friday through Monday, federal law enforcement agencies will dedicate extra resources to coastal patrols on land, air, and sea.

Heitke said San Diego residents will see an increase in activity by boats and helicopters along the coastline, at beaches and marinas, and in San Diego Bay.

“Safety of life at sea is our highest priority,” said Capt. Timothy Barelli, commander of the Coast Guard’s San Diego sector. “Interdictions of suspected human smuggling at sea are as much rescues as they are law enforcement operations. There is grave risk of capsizing, hypothermia, and drowning.” 

On Thursday, agents interdicted a small wooden panga vessel traveling without navigation lights 11 miles off the coast of Point Loma with 21 people on board.

N. Michael Montgomery, director of Customs and Border Protection’s air and marine operations in San Diego said officials hope to keep up the increased maritime patrols.

“We anticipate that there will be continued emphasis operations to follow up after this weekend’s initial push,” he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.