HomeNewsSynthetic Drugs Flood California Crossing of US-Mexico Border
NEWS

Synthetic Drugs Flood California Crossing of US-Mexico Border

FENTANYL / 26 NOV 2021 BY SETH ROBBINS EN

A record seizure of methamphetamine and fentanyl at a US-Mexico border crossing near San Diego underscores how this corner has become a major smuggling corridor for synthetic drugs.

Nearly 8,000 kilograms of methamphetamine and about 180 kilograms of fentanyl were discovered amid auto parts in a tractor-trailer at the Otay Mesa crossing in California, according to a November 19 news release by the US Justice Department. The seizures represented the largest single haul of each drug during the past two years, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

SEE ALSO: Coverage of US-Mexico Border

Agents found the nearly 6,400 packages of illegal drugs after an X-ray scan revealed anomalies in the trailer, and a narcotics-sniffing dog signaled an alert at its door.

“This is a staggering seizure,” Randy Grossman, US District Attorney for the Southern District of California, said in the news release. “But for the vigilance of our law enforcement partners, this record-breaking deluge of drugs would have caused incredible damage in our communities,” he added.

The US has seen a surge in drug overdose deaths recently, driven primarily by synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl. Of the nearly 100,000 people who died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021, about 64,000 had consumed synthetic opioids, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

InSight Crime Analysis

The record haul reflects an increasing flow of methamphetamine and fentanyl across the border between California and Mexico, and the bust is the latest in a string of large seizures by agents at the Otay Mesa crossing.

According to CBP figures, its San Diego sector operations have seized nearly 52,000 kilograms of methamphetamine and nearly 3,000 kilograms of fentanyl during the 2021 fiscal year, which began in September 2020 and ran through October 2021. That’s a five-ton increase in methamphetamine compared to the previous year. Fentanyl, meanwhile, more than doubled from 2020. 

While so much attention has been placed on drug smuggling in empty stretches of the border between the US and Mexico, most drugs enter the US through legal ports of entry. California has two of the busiest – San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. According to a USA Today report, 90 percent of drug seizures in the CBP’s San Diego Sector occur at the ports.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Synthetic Drugs

Traffickers typically hide small amounts of drugs inside private cars or trucks. The larger seizures, however, could be a result of the US closing its border to non-essential vehicles amid Covid-19 movement restrictions, pushing traffickers to take gambles on stashing large shipments in tractor-trailers. Traffickers appear to be targeting the Otay Mesa crossing, which serves as a major transit point for commercial transit.

In August, agents at Otay Mesa discovered more than 2,500 kilograms of methamphetamine and some 50 kilograms of fentanyl in a truck’s trailer that contained commercial plastic parts, according to a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) news release.

The San Diego Border Sector's crossings lie across from Mexico’s state of Baja California. The state’s municipalities of Tijuana and Ensenada topped methamphetamine seizures in Mexico in 2020, accounting for more than 5,000 kilograms of the drug, according to government data compiled by the non-profit Mexico United Against Crime (México Unido Contra la Delincuencia -- MUCD).

According to a study on fentanyl seizures between 2017 and 2019, Baja California led all states with 87 seizures. The study also suggested three primary fentanyl smuggling routes, two of which led directly to the California border.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 15 FEB 2022

On March 2, 2021, El Salvador police announced an unexpected arrest: that of Hugo Armando Quinteros Mineros, alias “Flaco.” His…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 19 JUL 2022

Amid El Salvador's brutal anti-gang crackdown, one top MS13 leader was escorted out of the country by a government official.

COCAINE / 18 MAY 2022

Early investigations indicate the CJNG is striking partnerships with drug rings in Guatemala that receive shipments of cocaine from Colombia…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…