A months-long, nationwide crackdown on Mexican cartels that distribute methamphetamine into the United States resulted in the seizure of nearly 4,500 pounds of the drug and 81 arrests in the Southern California area, the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) San Diego Field Division announced.
Over the last seven months, San Diego's DEA unit conducted 29 investigations into suspected methamphetamine trafficking as part of the nationwide Operation Crystal Shield. In all, nine major cities that account for 75% of all methamphetamine seized in the United States participated in the operation.
"We just concentrated for 7 months on identifying and dismantling organizations that were trafficking methamphetamine into the united states in those particular cities” said John Callery, Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Field Division.
On top of seizing 4,462 pounds of meth and arresting 81 suspects, the local agency seized $489,000 in drug proceeds during the enforcement effort.
Nationwide, agents completed more than 750 investigations, resulting in nearly 1,840 arrests and the seizure of more than 28,560 pounds of methamphetamine, $43.3 million in drug proceeds, and 284 firearms during the operation.
The operation began before the coronavirus pandemic, but agents continued working to crack down on the illicit drug months after the lockdown forced them to change the way they conduct investigations.
"I am amazed at the folks that work in this office right here. As much as COVID has set us back, I really haven’t seen it statistics wise. Our folks aren’t coming into the office but they’re out in the field,” Callery said.
Methamphetamine became prominent on the west coast in the early 90s and has since remained one of the most prominent drugs in San Diego, Callery said. It is readily available across the United States, and the majority comes from Mexico, making San Diego a likely funneling point.
Callery said it was hard to link back the trafficking operations they intercepted to the Mexican cartel because their operation is broken down in a way that is hard to track but he says that it is likely a majority of them were.
Callery said drug traffickers are creative in the ways they transport drugs into the United States, repurposing old strategies in new ways to try to complete their goal. Recently, there has been an increase in drone usage to get meth across the border and into San Diego.
Operation Crystal Shield was launched on Feb. 20, after investigators identified major methamphetamine trafficking hubs in Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego and St. Louis.