More drug smuggling boats coming to the coast

Two panga boats found within the past two weeks

Victoria Sanchez, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
POSTED: 06:52 PM PDT Mar 19, 2013    UPDATED: 11:02 PM PDT Mar 19, 2013 
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

The Tri-Counties are seeing more signs of drug smuggling up and down the coast.

Panga boats have been abandoned with drugs stashed nearby including over the weekend.

In the first three months of the year, four known panga boats have come ashore. Last year more than 20 boats landed on the coast.

The latest boat was abandoned at Refugio Beach.

"When we got on scene, the boat was in the surf and was unloaded," said Paul Amaral with Vessel Assist in Ventura.

But the drugs weren't far away. Officials said nearly 2,000 pounds of pot was hidden. The same thing happened at Vandenberg Air Force Base just two weeks ago.

"The one at Vandenberg really surprised me because that is a closed base. You're not going to be lugging bales of marijuana across a patrolled military installation," said Lt. Butch Arnoldi, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

Arnoldi believes those smugglers just got lost.

"The good thing is, those are illegal drugs that didn't end up on the streets," he said.

Marijuana may come in through the Central Coast but it's not all staying here, which is creating an even bigger problem.

"There's such a high quantity that they're dropping off, that's not all local, that's going through the state of California, and probably into Arizona and Nevada," Arnoldi explained.

Beefed up patrols are going so well in Los Angeles and San Diego, they are forcing smugglers from Mexico to move north.

"The United States can't do it alone, California can't do it alone, it's got to take a cooperation with all the other states, western states, as well as with the county of Mexico," said Arnoldi.

On Tuesday, attorneys general from five states, including California, met with their counterpart in Mexico to discuss drug smuggling. Local officials say it is about time and hope it will make a difference here.