California checkpoints see uptick in fentanyl seizures, Border Patrol officials say

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PINE VALLEY, Calif. (Border Report) — Pine Valey, Calif., is about 45 minutes east of downtown San Diego, and it’s the home of a Border Patrol checkpoint that has been seizing record amounts of narcotics, especially fentanyl.

The checkpoint, supervised by agents almost 24/7, sits on the westbound lanes of Highway 8. It’s one of five similar facilities scattered across San Diego County.

Border Patrol Agent Justin Castrejon. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

“This is in place primarily for immigration, but our authority does carry into that Title XXI drug smuggling and allows us to make drug seizures and make arrests,” Border Patrol Agent Justin Castrejon said.

Just this past Sunday, $1 million worth of cocaine and fentanyl were uncovered by agents working the checkpoint.

“A U.S. Citizen drove through the checkpoint, a canine was out doing its work and agents found 84 pounds of cocaine and four pounds of fentanyl,” said Castrejon. “We just ended fiscal year 2020, and during this fiscal year we saw a slight uptick in fentanyl seizures. Our fentanyl seizures in San Diego County accounted for nearly half of all fentanyl seizures along the southwest border.”

Castrejon added the canines are helping agents find more and more drugs by doing an “open-air sniff.”

“The open-air sniff is a non-intrusive search of a vehicle as it drives through the checkpoint. If a canine does alert, it does allow us to search that vehicle and find the source of that alert.”

Canines and Border Patrol Agents found $1 million worth of drugs on Sunday morning. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

These open-air sniffs also allow for faster processing times, helping agents with the flow of vehicles at the checkpoint minimizing wait times for drivers.

“Of course, we want to conduct our inspections of vehicles passing through the checkpoint and do it in a way that doesn’t impede people for an unreasonable amount of time,” Castrejon said.

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