McALLEN — The frequency and size of marijuana seizures in the Rio Grande Valley continues to grow significantly compared to last year, the U.S. Border Patrol announced this week.
During the week of May 11 to May 17, for example, the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector confiscated more than nine tons of marijuana compared to 3.8 tons during the same time period in 2008.
Agents conducted 60 seizures that week, according to a Border Patrol news release.
Officials attributed the 71 percent increase in narcotics seizures to increased manpower and a better infrastructure to prevent drug smuggling.
“Our ability to detect and apprehend is higher,” said Border Patrol spokesman John Lopez.
The Border Patrol seized more marijuana in the first six months of 2009 than in all of 2008, said Daniel Doty, a local Border Patrol spokesman.
Lopez said smugglers also appear to be smuggling larger quantities into the United States because of added patrols by the Mexican government.
“They’re taking larger risks,” Lopez said.
The largest seizure of the week occurred in Rio Grande City when agents found 3,883 pounds of marijuana inside an abandoned truck.
The driver of the truck had led agents on a chase away from the Rio Grande before ditching the vehicle and fleeing on foot.
Agents found more marijuana scattered throughout a nearby dilapidated shed.
Also last week, agents seized 1,454 pounds of marijuana from two separate vehicles after each was seen leaving the Rio Grande area.
In total, agents seized 18,159 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of about $14.5 million.
The drugs were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The Rio Grande Valley sector has nine stations stretching from Brownsville to Corpus Christi.
By Ana Ley
Ana Ley covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4428.