Maritime transportation of illegal drugs from South America
Atkinson, Michael P.
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Background: The US invests considerable effort in searching and interdicting drug-trafficking vessels in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific regions. While some vessels are indeed interdicted, resulting in confiscation of substantial quantities of drugs, many such vessels manage to avoid detection and arrive safely at their destinations in Central America and Mexico with their drug load intact. The agency in charge of interdicting this traffic, Joint Interagency Task Force South—JIATF-S, sends out both aerial and surface assets for search and interdiction missions. Methods: An important parameter for planning search and interdiction missions is an estimate of the expected steady-state number of the various types of drug trafficking vessels present in the search regions at any given time. In this paper we use various publicly available sources to estimate these numbers. Results: We estimate that the number of drug shipments initiated per month ranges between four and six dozen, and at any given time there are between two and four vessels, of all types, on the high seas. These estimates remain quite robust over a relatively large range of assumptions and estimates regarding the size and distribution of the drug flow, mix of vessel types, and physical characteristics of those vessels. Conclusion: Our analysis provides insight for how to allocate assets to search, detect, and interdict drug trafficking vessels. The results can also be useful to vet informants to check if their information is consistent with our flow estimates. To the best of our knowledge this is the first time such flow estimates appear in the open literature.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.07.010
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