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Coast Guard Drug Interdiction for FY 2004

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Updated October 15, 2004
The Coast Guard seized a record 240,518 pounds of cocaine, worth approximately $7.7 billion during fiscal year 2004. The previous annual record of 138,393 pounds was surpassed May 29 with the seizure of 4,300 pounds of cocaine off a go-fast vessel in the Eastern Pacific.

Coast Guard and Navy forces made the largest seizure in Coast Guard history with the discovery of 30,000 pounds of cocaine aboard the fishing vessel Lina Maria approximately 300 miles southwest of the Galapagos Islands, Sept. 17.

Other significant seizures contributing to this year’s totals were 26,250 pounds seized by a Coast Guard law enforcement team on the fishing vessel San Jose, 500 miles west of the Galapagos Islands, and the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett’s seizure of 11,071 pounds of cocaine on the motor vessel Don Isaac, 410 miles northwest of the Galapagos Islands and 10,066 pounds of cocaine seized on the motor vessel San Juanero, 410 miles south of Acapulco, Mexico. The Midgett is homeported in Seattle.

The Coast Guard was involved in 98 drug enforcement events involving cocaine or marijuana, seizing 70 vessels and making a record 326 arrests. Cocaine seizures were more prominent in the Pacific region where 169,167 pounds were seized equaling more than 74 percent of the total weight seized. The total amount of marijuana seized was 25,449 pounds.

Nearly all Coast Guard cutters and aircraft are involved in drug interdiction missions, but two types of units have been established in recent years, specially geared toward drug interdiction operations.

Law Enforcement Detachments: These units consist of specially trained law enforcement officers and are deployed on Navy vessels scheduled to transit or operate in areas frequently used by illegal drug traffickers. Since Posse Comitatus prohibits Navy members from carrying out direct law enforcement activities, Coast Guard members investigate all contacts and conduct boardings from these Navy ships. These partnerships typically account for at least half of all drug seizures on the high seas. Law enforcement detachments are also currently deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadrons: These units contain Coast Guard armed helicopters and are authorized to employ airborne use of force. The unit’s primary mission is to interdict and stop drug smuggling go-fast vessels. Launching off the larger Coast Guard cutters, these helicopters work in tandem with cutter’s over-the-horizon small boats. When all attempts to get a go-fast operator to stop have failed, a skilled marksman will shoot into a go-fast’s engines, disabling the boat, allowing the over-the-horizon crew to come alongside. The squadrons have also taken on the mission of Homeland Security since Sept. 11, 2003.

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