Coast Guard Drug Interdiction on the Texas Coast

CED-81-104: Published: May 19, 1981. Publicly Released: May 27, 1981.

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Information was requested on the capability of the Coast Guard to control drug smuggling, particularly on the Texas coast.

According to Coast Guard officials, drug smuggling on the Texas coast has increased over the last few years. Although the Coast Guard has established goals for deterring maritime drug smuggling, resource limitations have prevented it from achieving these goals. The primary drug targeted and seized by the Coast Guard is marijuana, which is the top income producer accounting for 35 percent of estimated U.S. narcotic sales. Its bulk makes it easier to detect and more difficult to dispose of than most other drugs. It is also more frequently transported by sea because of the quantities smuggled. Mexico was formerly the primary source of marijuana smuggled into the United States, but presently Columbia is the main source. This shift has led to an increase in maritime smuggling and a decrease in overland smuggling. Some of this increase is occurring on the Texas coast. The street value of drugs seized by the Coast Guard amounted to 40 percent of the total street value of drugs seized by all Federal agencies. Factors which contributed to the increase in maritime drug smuggling on the Texas coast included a concentration of Coast Guard resources in southern Florida and the Cuban refugee sea lift operation. Although Coast Guard officials expect some permanent increase in drug traffic across the Texas coast because a smuggling infrastructure was built up during the sea lift, the Coast Guard lacks the number of aircraft and ships needed to effectively block the Caribbean choke points.

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