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Orange County coastline increasingly popular with Mexican smuggling boats, authorities say

March 4, 2011 | 11:30 am

Drug_smuggling The Orange County coastline is emerging as a popular destination for Mexican smuggling boats, U.S. Border Patrol authorities said at a meeting in Dana Point on Thursday where residents and boaters were urged to report suspicious behavior at sea and in harbors.

Maritime smugglers carrying drugs and people are traveling farther from the border to avoid increased patrols in San Diego Country, authorities said. Small fishing boats called pangas have landed on beaches as far north as Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. Authorities didn’t provide an exact number of incidents, but said they are increasing.

The landings are part of a surge in maritime smuggling attempts off the California coast that began in 2007 and have increased every year. Last year authorities caught more than 800 immigrants at sea or on beaches, more than double from the previous year. Boats depart from beaches around Rosarito Beach and Ensenada in northern Baja California, they said.

Authorities last month intercepted a boat offshore from Dana Point and arrested 18 people aboard. Another large group of illegal immigrants was caught after coming ashore at San Onofre State Park. In December, several people got away after a boat landed at Crystal Cove.

Residents were urged to report any signs of smuggling activity, including discarded life vests and abandoned boats.

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-- Richard Marosi

Photo: Drug bundles. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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