Coast Guard breaks record for cocaine seizures

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands with Coast Guardsmen before a drug offload aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in San Diego, Sept. 20, 2017. More than 55,000 pounds of cocaine and a smaller amount of heroin was seized by the Stratton’s crew. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill)

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton recently offloaded 50,550 pounds of cocaine and heroin worth more than $679 million wholesale, which marks a record-breaking year in cocaine seizures for the service. The drugs were seized in 25 different interdictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean beginning in early August.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a joint press conference in San Diego that, in 2015, more than 52,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses. An increased presence of U.S. and allied forces in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, coupled with increased coca production in South America, has led to a significant increase in narcotics removal in the drug transit zones off South and Central America.

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton stand at parade rest on the flight deck of the cutter before a cocaine and heroin offload in San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill)

Criminals routinely move cocaine from South America to Central America and Mexico via maritime routes aboard fishing vessels, commercial cargo ships, low-profile vessels and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels.

“We’ve tripled our removal rates but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.

Each year, the Coast Guard and partner agencies remove about 20 percent of known drug shipments bound for the U.S. Annually, the Coast Guard interdicts more than three times the amount of cocaine seized at our borders and within the U.S. combined. These facts highlight the challenges as Coast Guard crews surge forces to respond to the threat of transnational organized crime.

Sessions also spoke about the difficulty in drug interdictions coming from the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

“The single most vulnerable part of the entire drug network may be their weakness at sea,” said Sessions. “The Coast Guard has now tripled their effectiveness and these incredibly large seizures validate that.”

Coast Guard crews and their interagency partners, operating in a six million square mile drug transit zone, have stopped over 455,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $6 billion wholesale in fiscal year 2017, which is another record year for the service in counterdrug operations. This showcases the threat posed by dangerous cartels, gangs and criminal groups who make up extensive transnational organized crime networks. It also highlights the commitment shown by the Coast Guard and its interagency partners’ efforts to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute operatives for these criminal networks. The drugs offloaded from Stratton will not fuel instability, violence and addiction in our hemisphere.

Every successful interagency interdiction, investigation and prosecution is a counter-attack against the criminal networks that flood our borders with drugs every day. Despite the increased availability of illegal

Attorney General Jeff Sessions congratulates the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew for their seizure of 50,550 pounds of cocaine and heroin, after an offload in San Diego, Sept. 20, 2017. The Coast Guard and its interagency partners seized drugs worth more than $6 billion in fiscal year 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon.)

drugs, low prices and purity, the Coast Guard continues to work to glean information to dismantle dangerous criminal organizations and reduce the supply of illegal drugs.

“Today our nation faces significant emerging threats on our southern borders and transit zones,” said Zukunft. “We are seeing the rapid growth of transnational criminal organizations that fuel violence and instability throughout the region. These criminal networks are vying for illicit markets including human and drug smuggling. It will take unity of effort across government to overcome these challenges.”

“The Coast Guard has never been more relevant or more important to domestic security and regional stability. Our exceptional international reputation is a direct result of the work our Coast Guard men and women do every day,” said Zukunft.










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