- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) - The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office wants money to fight drug-smuggling panga boats that have washed ashore the central coast in recent years.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson planned to ask county supervisors Tuesday to spend nearly $500,000 in federal grants to buy a response boat and other equipment.

The 27-foot Defender Class boat would be used to tow confiscated panga boats to nearby Morro Bay for disposal, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1llsJbI ).

A dozen panga boats have landed along the central coast the past two years. Authorities arrested 62 people suspected of drug smuggling and seized more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $8.8 million. A panga boat is a kind of fishing boat with an outboard motor.

“This equipment will aid and enhance the Sheriff’s Office ability to detect and potentially prevent these landings along our coast,” Parkinson said. “This not only has been a growing problem but more importantly poses a threat to our residents.”

Sheriff’s deputies currently don’t have a quick way to remove the vessels from the beach. While the department has several boats, Parkinson said none of them can tow the panga boats out of the surf line.

The increase in panga-boat landings comes as smugglers south of the U.S.-Mexico border move further up the California coastline.

Besides the response boat, estimated to cost more than $300,000, the department also wants to use the funds to buy license-plate readers, night-vision goggles and a thermal-imaging camera to detect pangas at sea.

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Information from: The Tribune, https://www.sanluisobispo.com


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