San Diego, CA

Otay Mesa's Pandemic of Illicit Drugs Wreaking Havoc Countywide

Jax Hudur
Meth bundles wrapped in green tape and photos of spinach leaves caught in Otay

Otay Mesa is a town located in the southern part of San Diego city with a small community of people. Otay Mesa is also a border crossing and an entry port that links to warehouses on the Mexican side of the border. While Otay Mesa is vulnerable like most border crossings due to illegal immigration, Otay Mesa has been in the news headlines for its out-of-control drug problems, which has now extended to a county jail where eight inmates overdosed on fentanyl on Tuesday the 18th of May 2021. 

The overdose incident took place in George F Bailey detention facility. It was reported that deputies from the Sheriff department administered an overdose-reversing drug to counter the effects of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is believed to be up to 50 times stronger than heroin. 

The Sheriff’s department had no clue as to how the drugs made their way into the prison. While that may not go well for the Sheriff department, three days earlier on the morning of Saturday the 15th of May 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) seized almost 2500 pounds of methamphetamine worth $5.5 million concealed in a shipment of medical supplies. 

The two incidents, while unrelated, speak volumes when it comes to Otay Mesa’s drug problems as a hub for the US- Mexico drug transit route into mainland US. In a statement, the San Diego CBP acting director of field operations, Ms. Anne Maricich said,

“Much of what officers see each day is “legitimate travelers and legitimate cargo that needs to speed its way into the U.S. as a critical part of our economy. But CBP officers know that we must remain vigilant. Transnational criminal organizations will attempt any avenue they can think of to try and smuggle their illicit drugs into the U.S.”

On Tuesday, the 18th of May 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a 47-year-old Mexican driver attempting to smuggle a methamphetamine shipment at a commercial facility that was disguised in watermelons worth $2.5 million. While the driver’s arrest is nothing to tout about considering his status in the hierarchy of the drug cartels whose products he was transporting, the size of the seized drugs further shines a light on how porous the border is. 

A busy week in Otay Mesa as record amounts of drugs are seized by authorities

If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection got lucky with these busts happening merely days in-between each bust, the question that comes to mind is how many shipments go through and make it through the U.S. for every shipment that is seized? This is why the authorities in San Diego, especially those in the Otay Mesa neighborhood, need to adapt to the smuggler’s fluid and ever-changing tactics in the way they elude law enforcement agencies. 

In a statement addressing the bust, Anne Maricich, the acting CBP director for the San Diego field office, said,

“We don’t frequently see seizures of this size, but they are certainly a risk in the cargo environment. Stopping over 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine is a critical act for the security and health of our nation.”

While I agree with Ms. Maricich that stopping that a large amount of meth is critical for the nation’s security and citizens, I cannot help but notice the laxity and how general the statements coming from the CBP office are. For instance, in late 2020, history’s second-largest border bust ever was made in Otay Mesa by the Customs and Border Protection Officers. That is merely a few months ago, and here is the CBP throwing out statements that hint at a sort of complacency when in fact, they should give Otay Mesa the seriousness the border crossing deserves.

I understand that the CBP’s work is immense, considering that 178,622 illegal immigrants attempting entry were caught in the month of April alone. However, while the agency’s struggle with human migration substantively reflects on the number of people detained, illegal drugs are falling within the cracks and making their way into mainland U.S. including county jails. In Otay Mesa’s neighborhood, particularly in and around San Diego, Fentanyl overdoses increased, causing authorities to issue a health order to allow the general public to possess and administer nasal sprays that could reverse overdoses. 

Why did the authorities in Otay Mesa or greater San Diego county let things get this bad? Time will tell whether they will curb the city’s drug problems but for now, In Otay Mesa’s community and San Diego neighborhoods, free and locked up people in county jails are not safe from drug overdoses. Do you think there will be accountability for the out-of-control deadly drug overdose mess?

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein


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