SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif- Four panga boats have been found in San Luis Obispo County this year. The county is now a target landing spot for drug smugglers.
Federal agencies and local law enforcement are in a cooperative effort to address this threat to our coast line. Choppers, boats, and boots on the ground are now constantly watching and patrolling the north coast of San Luis Obispo County. "Increased border patrol, Homeland Security or ICE investigators, working with our Coast Guard, we are also working more frequently with the Office of Air and Marine," said Steven Pitts with Border Patrol in San Diego.
Federal agencies are also working closely with CHP and the Sheriff's Office to patrol the coastline, where they are more likely to catch smugglers. "We patrol the entire coast between Cambria and Ragged Point," said Sgt. Stuart Macdonald with SLO Sheriff's Office.
Patrol has increased in the areas where the last four panga boats have been spotted. "Generally what we are looking for is more land based activity, the vehicles that would be meeting with a panga boat," said Macdonald. Like the RV that was used as a getaway in a recent bust where 14 million dollars worth of drugs were found.
Law enforcement is also catching onto drug smugglers favorite time to travel. "Moonlit nights, with calm seas, we know that that's a time that is at higher risk for panga landings to occur," said Macdonald. Just like the conditions the other night when a panga boat was found by two deputies on regular patrol that noticed an open gate.
Law enforcement isn't catching all the panga boats, but they are always coming up with new tactics. Both Homeland Security and the Sheriff's Office say they haven't had to spend more money on fighting these drug runners, and have only shifted resources.
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