U.S., Canada announce record drug seizure rates

A Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crewman guards more than 28,000 pounds of cocaine during an offload at Naval Base San Diego, April 16, 2015. The Boutwell crew returned to San Diego with the cocaine, worth over $424 million, seized in 19 separate interdictions by U.S. and Canadian forces in drug transit zones near Central and South America. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Connie Terrell)

A Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crewman guards more than 28,000 pounds of cocaine during an offload at Naval Base San Diego, April 16, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Connie Terrell)

SAN DIEGO – Officials from the U.S. and Canada welcomed back a U.S. Coast Guard cutter with more than 28,000 pounds of cocaine Thursday as allied forces set record drug seizure rates in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and Royal Canadian Navy ships have seized more cocaine in the last six months than in all of fiscal year 2014. U.S. and allied forces operating in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America have seized more than 56,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $848 million and apprehended more than 101 suspected smugglers. Fiscal year 2015, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, is already the most successful year in U.S. counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific since 2009.

The crew of the Cutter Boutwell returned to San Diego with more than 28,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $424 million seized in 19 separate interdictions by U.S. and Canadian forces in drug transit zones near Central and South America. Coast Guard boarding teams operating from numerous Coast Guard cutters and U.S. Navy and Royal Canadian Navy vessels made the seizures. During at-sea busts in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied military or law enforcement aircraft or vessels. The actual interdictions, including the boarding, search, seizures and arrests, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen.

Boutwell’s crew will offload evidence from an 11,000-pound seizure from a coastal freighter in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which was executed by crews from the Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Teams based in Miami and San Diego, USS Gary and Cutter Boutwell from Naval Base San Diego, and HMCS Whitehorse from Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, Canada. This is the single largest maritime drug interdiction in the Eastern Pacific Ocean since 2009.

Several leaders from agencies involved in the fight against transnational organized crime attended Boutwell’s homecoming and drug offload. Senior officials included Vice Adm. Kenneth Floyd, commander, U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet; Vice Adm. Charles Michel, U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations; Rear Adm. Bill Truelove, commander, Royal Canadian Navy Maritime Forces Pacific/Joint Task Force Pacific; Ms. Laura Duffy, U.S. Attorney Southern District California; and Mr. Lothar Eckardt, executive director, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, National Air Security Operations.

Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime including the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, DEA, ICE, U.S. Attorney’s Offices in California, Florida and Puerto Rico, and U.S. intelligence agencies. The Royal Canadian Navy also continues to play an important role in counter drug operations. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from intelligence to detection and monitoring to interdiction and to prosecution.

The Coast Guard recently released its Western Hemisphere Strategy, which refocuses Coast Guard efforts on ensuring stability, security and prosperity. As part of the strategy, the Coast Guard has increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America.

This is the second major offload from Cutter Boutwell in six months. The crew of Cutter Boutwell turned over 28,000 pounds of cocaine, worth more than $423 million wholesale, over to DEA agents in October 2014. The Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell is a 378-foot high endurance cutter with a crew of about 170 people. The nearly 50-year-old Boutwell and the other Secretary-class, high endurance cutters, are being replaced by the Legend-class, national security cutters (NSCs). The NCSs are better equipped, more durable, safer, and more efficient than their predecessor, and will continue to allow the Coast Guard to deliver its unique blend of military capability, law enforcement authority, and lifesaving expertise.

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