Smugglers Reach Dangerous New Heights

By Greg Bledsoe
|  Saturday, Apr 30, 2011  |  Updated 2:01 PM PDT
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2 Smuggling Attempts, 450 Pounds of Pot

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Agents are listening for ultra light planes with cages mounted under the seat.

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Smugglers Reach Dangerous New Heights

With more agents and more fencing along the U.S. Mexico border, smugglers are being forced to get creative.
More Photos and Videos

The back and forth battle between drug smugglers and border agents has reached new heights. With more agents and more fencing along the U.S. Mexico border, smugglers are being forced to get creative.

A method that started mainly in Arizona is now being seen more often here in San Diego, forcing agents to extend their patrols beyond just the ground and the water.

Border agent Rodolfo Zuniga says agents are listening for ultra light planes with cages mounted under the seat.

"They kind of look like hang gliders, but with a motor," said Zuniga.

Smugglers fly over the border late at night and with the pull of a lever, drop the drugs to crews waiting below.

"Either with glow sticks or flashing lights, they are able to signal the pilots," said Zuniga.

Last year, there were 228 cases along the U.S. border, almost double from the year before.

As recently as this week, ICE agents confiscated 300 pounds of narcotics dropped near Otay Mesa.

"There's a safety issue here," said Zuniga.

He says the planes are only designed to carry the weight of a pilot.

"They endanger their own safety by flying at night and low to the ground in order to avoid detection, and what this does is this makes them vulnerable to power lines and other hazards," said Zuniga.

With more fence line and thousands more agents, Zuniga says these planes are proof smugglers are being forced to find another way.

"These criminal organizations are becoming frustrated,” said Zuniga.

Since October, there have been about 30 of these incidents in Imperial County, and seven so far here in San Diego.

The Border Patrol says they are now using radar to monitor for airborne smugglers.

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