Coast Guard Announces A Successful Year of Drug Seizures

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen at a gathering with officials from CBP, FBI, JIATF-S, U.S. Attorney’s Office, announced today another successful year for drug seizures at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.

The seizures and disruptions included 352,862 pounds or 175 tons of cocaine and 71,234 pounds or 35 tons of marijuana in 2009, worth more than $5 billion.

“I am pleased to announce another successful year for our international partnerships and interagency efforts stopping illegal drug traffickers at sea. We have detained hundreds of individuals and kept more than $5 billion worth of illicit narcotics off the streets because of the cooperation and dedication of those represented here with me today,” said Adm. Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant and Chairman of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Interdiction Committee.

Despite changing tactics and brazen attempts to transfer drugs into the U.S., 322 individuals were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard for suspected drug trafficking. Highlights include:

In March, the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen recovered 16,560 pounds of marijuana after being alerted by a U.S. Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft about a suspect vessel operating near their patrol location in the Eastern Pacific. In addition to the drugs, four individuals were apprehended and transferred to Mexican authorities.

  • In July, the new, Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter, the Bertholf, responded to a call from a CBP maritime patrol aircraft that spotted four high speed vessels moving north in the Eastern Pacific. After launching small boats and a helicopter, the smugglers began dumping their load overboard. Two of the vessels stopped after a marksman aboard the helicopter engaged them with warning shots and subsequent disabling fire. The operation netted 3,300 pounds of cocaine.
  • In October, the Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel with a crew of four and approximately five tons of cocaine.

While the Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency for maritime law enforcement, drug interdiction is an interagency effort. Through federal partnerships, the interdiction community is able to make significant gains in keeping illegal drugs out of country and the profits out of the drug dealers’ hands. The many counterdrug patrols are conducted in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, CBP, Allies and Partner Nation vessels and aircraft operating with the Joint Interagency Task Force South located in Key West, Fla., which executes drug detection and monitoring patrols for U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

JIATF South also coordinates information sharing from investigative agencies such as FBI and DEA. When suspected drug vessels are discovered law enforcement action is directed and undertaken by Coast Guard personnel. Follow on prosecution is conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I commend the interagency community and our international partners for their significant interdiction efforts in 2009,” said Mr. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

“The Obama Administration recognizes your interdiction successes protect countless lives from the dangers of drug abuse, trafficking, and production, and consequently has made disrupting drug trafficking networks, along with strengthening prevention and treatment efforts, a cornerstone of the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. I am confident that the dedicated men and women of our law enforcement, intelligence, and defense agencies will continue to work closely with our global partners to ensure even greater success in 2010,” said Kerlikowske.

In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard participated in 123 interdiction events in which 58 vessels were seized, 322 individuals were detained, over 71,000 pounds of marijuana and over 352,000 pounds of cocaine were seized or disrupted.

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