Looking to circumvent tighter security measures at the border, smugglers are more frequently resorting to entering the country by sea, using small boats to move their cargo of contraband and humans, authorities said.
In the past year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have seen an increase in incidents where smugglers use small fishing boats to enter the country, said Daryl Reed, spokesman for the agency.
Smugglers and immigrants often land in San Diego County beaches during their short trips, but recently, smugglers appear to be inching their way farther north, sometimes landing in Orange County coast. This year, the Orange County Sheriff's Department has begun working with Border Protection officials in border sweeps, working with federal officials on patrolling and security.
In the fiscal year ending in September 2009, federal and other law enforcement authorities in San Diego arrested 430 on suspicion of drug and human smuggling, compared with 230 in the previous fiscal year, according to the agency's statistics. But it's not just maritime smuggling that has been increasing recently, officials said.
With tighter security at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing, agents are seeing what they described as more "creative" tactics to elude authorities, including underground tunnels, boats, and vehicles that are disguised as official city or state vehicles, Reed said.