The U.S. Coast Guard has set a record for most cocaine drug busts in a year.
The agency’s 20-ton cocaine bust on Aug. 28 brings the 12-month tally to $5.6 billion, reports the Daily Mail. Another record was set with the Coast Guard arrest of 585 suspected drug smugglers between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016.
This despite the increasingly sophisticated techniques that smugglers are using to bring cocaine into the U.S.
For example, some drug smugglers are now using a type of submarine known as “self-propelled semisubmersibles” (SPSS), which the Coast Guard has encountered six times so far in 2016.
These nautical vessels feature a mostly submerged hull, while the crew operates it from a cockpit just above the surface. They are designed specifically for illegal trafficking because their low profile makes them difficult to detect.
One such submarine was intercepted on Sept. 6 in the Pacific Ocean by the Coast Guard ship Waesche, netting five suspects and 5,600 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $73 million.
“With every interdiction, we learn more about transnational organized crime networks that generate profit and proliferate power from a laundry list of illicit activities,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area. "Coast Guard men and women not only keep drugs off U.S. streets, but they combat the influence of these criminal networks that spread violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere.”
The commanding officer of the Waesche, Capt James Passarelli, said Coast Guard officers “face significant risks posed by dangerous criminal organizations. ... Our crew preserved valuable evidence and kept millions of dollars of illicit narcotics off America’s streets.”
The U.S. government spends more than $51 billion every year on the War on Drugs, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
The same organization notes that 1,561,231 Americans were arrested for drug law violations in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. In the same year, over 2 million Americans were imprisoned for drug offenses -- approximately 1 in every 111 adults.
In addition, over 200,000 students lost federal financial aid eligibility due to a drug conviction, and 47,055 Americans died of a drug overdose.