Capps wants continued funding to thwart panga boat operations

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comMay 9, 2013 

Citing an increase in marijuana smuggling along the Central Coast, Rep. Lois Capps has asked the House Appropriations Committee to continue its $50 million funding of a program aimed to thwart panga boat operators.

In a letter to the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, the Democrat said the funding of Operation Stonegarden is particularly important to the Central Coast, “where we have seen an increase in small-craft smuggling of narcotics and, in some cases, humans, using traditional Mexican fishing boats called ’pangas.’”

The death of Coast Guard officer Terrell Horne last December brought more focus to pangas. Horne was aboard a Coast Guard vessel when it was struck by a panga boat believed to be involved in narcotics trafficking.

Operation Stonegarden is one of three programs in the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Grant Program designed to increase coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and to help offset costs by local agencies.

Homeland Security personnel say they intercepted 500 percent more marijuana smuggled via water in 2011 and 2012 off the coasts of Southern and Central California.

The Stonegarden program received $50 million last year.

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