A dramatic increase in the amount of narcotics being seized at the five border crossings in San Diego and Imperial counties was reported Tuesday by the U.S. Customs Service.
Six-hundred thirty-four pounds of cocaine and 11,799 pounds of marijuana were confiscated by inspectors at the six ports of entry during the first three months of the year, according to Quintin Villanueva, head of the Customs Service's Pacific region.
The 634 pounds of cocaine seized in the past three months brought the total for the six-month period ending April 1 to 9,306 pounds, which Customs officials estimated had a street value of $32.6 million.
In the corresponding six months a year ago, agents seized 200 pounds of cocaine, all of it confiscated in the first three months.
During the first three months of this year, customs agents also seized 11,799 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $17.2 million, Villanueva said. In the same period of 1990, seizures totaled 6,042 pounds.
For the six months ending April 1, seizures were 23,699 pounds. In the same period a year ago, agents confiscated 9,389 pounds.
Customs Service spokeswoman Bobbie Cassidy credited improved inspection methods and streamlined communications between border stations and other law enforcement agencies for the increased seizures.
"We feel that we are just really getting better at what we do," Cassidy said. "Whether there's an increase in smuggling activities is anybody's guess. We just catch it when it comes across."
Narcotics-sniffing dogs were normally stationed at individual checkpoints but now are allowed to roam among cars waiting in line. Customs has acquired more of the dogs. Cassidy declined to say how many they have.
A dog detected narcotics in a propane truck last October, leading agents to 7,700 pounds of cocaine stacked inside the tank. The large cache made up most of the cocaine found in the past six months.