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Capps, Officials Sound Off on Strategies to Curb Influx of Drug Smuggling

Rising use of 'panga' boats has local authorities concerned and asking for federal assistance

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has asked for federal help in battling an influx of “panga” boats used by smugglers from Mexico to bring illegal drugs and people into the country. He met Thursday in Santa Barbara with officials, including Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, to discuss the problem.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has asked for federal help in battling an influx of “panga” boats used by smugglers from Mexico to bring illegal drugs and people into the country. He met Thursday in Santa Barbara with officials, including Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, to discuss the problem.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Santa Barbara County has more than 100 miles of shoreline, a fact capitalized on by Mexican smugglers transporting drugs and illegal immigrants via boat, and county and federal officials met Thursday near the Santa Barbara Harbor to brainstorm how to best curb that activity.

Numerous “panga boats” believed used by the smugglers have been found up and down the entire coast of California. Pangas are a type of fishing vessel with several outboard motors used in countries such as Mexico.

The boats can travel at high speeds on the open ocean, and have been found as far north as San Francisco. They are well suited to smugglers trying to bring drugs and people to shore undetected.

Sixteen boats have been found ashore in the county over the past year, according to Sheriff Bill Brown, who spoke with reporters before the meeting.

That increase prompted Brown to reach out for federal help from Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara. Capps organized Thursday’s briefing with officials, and said she’ll be going back to Washington, D.C., to request the funding needed to deal with the smugglers.

“We have major concerns about public safety,” Brown told reporters.

Thursday’s meeting was held to coordinate with officials from federal agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard and the Homeland Security Department, and reporters were not allowed behind closed doors. But Brown said the groups were meeting to further “cement tactics” and share information.

In an April letter to Capps’ office, Brown requested federal help to address the problem, which he said is siphoning time and resources from the Sheriff’s Department. In addition to drugs and illegal aliens, Brown expressed concern that weapons and terrorists also could enter the country the same way.

In April, a “super panga” that had four outboard motors was discovered on local shores, said Brown, who noted that the vessel would have been fast enough to outrun the boat operated by the Sheriff’s Department. Law enforcement discovered the abandoned boat and estimated that it had been used to smuggle several tons of marijuana.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




comments powered by Disqus

» on 07.06.12 @ 03:22 AM

Forget about it - the federal govt is useless when it comes to controlling our borders. I can promise you Lois Capps will do nothing.

» on 07.06.12 @ 01:17 PM

Mr. Segal, to be fair, Rep. Capps has done about as much as she is capable of doing.

» on 07.06.12 @ 02:28 PM

Well, not raiding medical dispensaries could be a start. Where there is demand there will be supply.

» on 07.06.12 @ 02:43 PM

History on Border security and Lois Capps.

1. Her husband stated strong support for stopping illegal alien crossings and drug running, “until” the Washington Democrat machine brought the hammer down and he suddenly without explanation did a 180.

2. When faced with Mexican and Latin American political groups in California wanting immediate amnesty and what amounts to open borders she (Lois Capps) played dodge ball with direct questions and all but supported all of the above.  This was shortly after her first election…and she has never looked back.

3. Her statement “...said she’ll be going back to Washington, D.C., to request the funding needed to deal with the smugglers.” begs the issue of border control.  To do the job right means sending to jail human as well as drug smugglers.  This means she has to reverse her support for amnesty for illegals, and go against the Democrat Part push supporting Mexico’s demands our laws be cancelled in favor of Mexican demands.  It means supporting documentation when applying for driver licenses, and voting registration / balloting.

Brown can ask all he wants but until all of the above is done and Capps originates a bill for federal money to put bodies and boats on the “ground/sea” it is political speak without any real meaning.

» on 07.06.12 @ 05:29 PM

We seem to have forgotten the lessons of prohibition. There is only solution to this problem.  Legalize Marijuana and sell it through legitimate channels.  decriminilize many hard drugs and make them available through clinics that also provide addiction treatment.  We lost the war on drugs long ago and are doing nothing but promoting the profitibility of drug smuggling.  Shut off one smuggling route and the criminal gangs will find another.

» on 07.07.12 @ 05:02 PM

When it comes to smuggling tons of marijuana one should ask, where could you land a small boat close enough to a vehicle to unload it and not be seen? I can think of only one such place, a place behind a guarded gate where you can drive on 12 miles of beach far from the eye of the public or police. It is right in front of the Sheriff’s nose but he won’t look. Might piss off the wrong people.

» on 07.12.12 @ 12:40 PM

Have to agree with Larry on this one. Criminalization of drug use is worthless. It punishes behavior rather than solving the root cause, just like over regulating markets punishes greed without solving its root. As a society that believes in freedom we need to do less punitive legislation and a better job teaching personal responsibility.

» on 07.12.12 @ 05:17 PM

Regardless of the demand issue, Capps (both of them) lack of interest in securing the border because of political pressure is the real issue.

Until she is willing to back this one aspect she is a loser willing to trade her 6 term retirement for politics, and not national or State of Calif. security.

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