Video: Human Smuggling With Personal Watercraft


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Jet skis have become a preferred method for the transport of illegal immigrants, drugs, and weapons from Mexico and into the United States of America. Personal watercraft are launched from Tijuana and then landed on the beaches from the border up to Point Loma.

According to a report by UT San Diego, some jet skis are stolen from San Diego rental companies and used for the nefarious purposes described above. The cargo is usually human. However, they’ve been known to move drugs or weapons, according to Coast Guard Captain John Spaner.

“It’s become a routine conveyance of organized crime. Because of that, and because 50 to me is a high number, I see that as a security threat,” said Spaner, the Coast Guard’s San Diego sector commander.

During fall of 2013, 50 smugglers on personal watercraft were apprehended over a course of three months. The Coast Guard, United States Border Patrol, and other federal agencies contributed to this number of captures. This figure dropped significantly in the fall of 2014. Only ten criminal transporters were caught and the Coast Guard claims that low number is due to increased vigilance.

“I think our system of sensors is very good, and we’re very good at detecting when this happens,” Spaner said.

The pressure along the border has caused a spike in the cost of transporting potential immigrants. The cost of illegal transports by non-law abiding Jet Ski drivers has increased exponentially. Undocumented immigrants are paying 40% more for a potential ride to the southern California Coast.

Law Enforcement Officers claim that migrants are paying thousands of dollars to cross the border by personal watercraft.

He went on to say that a person can rent a ski for a mere $500 deposit in San Diego. This makes it easy for smugglers to pull off their illegal actions. The ski can transport up to 2 people per trip at the cost of near $7000 per person. That is good money and gives smugglers incentive to continue.

Unfortunately, there is no reputable data publicly available to let us know when the human smuggling began although since 2012 there has been a decline in the use of pangas for human smuggling. This means it’s possible that is when jet skis came on the scene as the new watercraft of choice for smuggling.

“With the fall off of pangas, we saw more of an uptick in Jet Skis. I’m not sure what’s driving it,” Lavergne, a Border Patrol agent, said. “We still have pangas coming, but for the most part pangas have gone toward carrying narcotics.”

Federal agents say that drug pangas head farther out to sea and land north off the San Diego coast to keep from being captured.

It’s a different game for smugglers and their cargo since they don’t usually have high tech equipment. Typically, smugglers on jet skis don’t even use GPS so they only have their eyes to rely on when figuring out their route.

Lights on the coast are the only things visible at night and U.S. officials say that they worry about the immigrants arriving on skis due to safety concerns.

Make sure to watch the UT San Diego video HERE.

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Ocean Priselac

An avid mountain and bodyboarder who lives by "if you don't go, you'll never know," with an affinity for wildlife and animal rescue; surf forecasting is a huge part of Ocean's life and was a winner in Red Bull's Project Swell several years ago. The 2014 LB2CAT was her first jet ski competition and can't wait to do it again!

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