SAN DIEGO — Despite a brief decline after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Customs Service seized a record 244 tons of narcotics along the U.S.-Mexico border in California over the past year.
The total for the state’s two border counties was 19 percent higher by weight compared to the previous year, said Customs spokesman Vince Bond.
Agents confiscated 488,606 pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in the border region during fiscal year 2001, which ended Sept. 30. The drugs were seized both at border crossings and in special air and sea operations.
Marijuana accounted for the bulk of the confiscated drugs at 419,292 pounds, followed by cocaine at 67,799 pounds. Authorities don’t know the reason for the year-to-year increase. It could be caused by increased flows of illegal drugs, better enforcement or a combination, Bond said.
During the two weeks after the attacks, drug seizures plummeted more than 80 percent at California border crossings as agents searched every car entering the United States. Authorities speculated that smugglers were temporarily delaying shipments to avoid heightened security.
“Without the events of Sept. 11, it may have been over 500,000 pounds,” Bond said of the year’s total.
The 244 tons does not include drugs seized by the Border Patrol between the ports of entry along the border or seizures by the Drug Enforcement Administration, local police or other agencies.
Along the entire U.S-Mexico border, seizures of illegal drugs increased by 19 percent to more than 1.3 million pounds. Nationwide, the agency confiscated 1.7 million pounds during the fiscal year.