Trusted travelers are now being used as drug mules. Drug mules are defined as people who transport drugs across international borders. These travelers were granted the “trusted” status by the U.S. government. Drug smugglers are now placing powerful magnets under their vehicles in Mexico. After securing the containers, the illegal cargo is obtained away from the view of the border of authorities in the United States. Containers were spotted by a motorist on January 12th while pumping gas. The motorist was under the impression that the containers were bombs. After reporting it to the authorities, police officers recovered 13.2 pounds of heroin from under the car.
According to San Diego Police, the drugs were packaged inside six magnetized cylinders. Certain details of the case have yet to be reported, but it’s confirmed that the driver came through a “trusted travelers” lane to smuggle in the heroin. In San Diego, at least three more incidents have occurred involving drivers in the SENTRI program. In 2009, there were 5.9 million vehicle crossings, in 2013, the number of vehicle crossings more than doubled at 12.6 million. SENTRI enables thousands of people to bypass inspectors avoiding issues such as traffic.
By enrolling in the SENTRI, travel time can be reduced by approximately two hours. Travelers potentially become targets making it difficult for police officials to believe the drugs were planted and leading them to believe they are drug mules. How do smugglers know who to target? Travelers who park their car for long periods of time and plan to travel back to the U.S. are among the most targeted. Two seconds is the amount of time it takes to attach and remove the magnetic container from the vehicle, which is no time. Windshield decals are one way that smugglers identify travelers enrolled in the program.
Since 2013, no decals have been issued, The Border Protection Agency and U.S. Customs are now giving travelers permission to remove old decals. Many have yet to remove them, which leaves them at high risk to become a target. Since identifying the trend in July 2011, there have been 29 cases of drivers unknowingly concealing drugs under their cars in San Diego. According to a spokeswoman Lauren Mack, 6 out of 29 motorists got past inspectors while traveling across the border. It’s very easy to become a drug mule unknowingly if travelers are not precautious of leaving their cars unattended.