The Use of Global Positioning Technology to Combat Drug Trafficking
An increasing number of organized crime groups in Latin America are using basic technology like the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to avoid United States law enforcement agencies while transporting drugs. El Salvador’s División Antinarcóticos, the country’s anti-drug program, reports that organized crime groups are increasingly using GPS technology to transport illegal shipments.
This use of basic technology comes after the recent arrest of the infamous crime boss, Prado Alava, who alleged that his operation was using technology more advanced than any other group.
The United States has likely increased focus on this activity because the amount of cocaine traffic has increased significantly in the course of the last year. The United States’ International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports reveal that the amount of drugs exported from South America has risen to unprecedented levels. The amount of coca cultivation in Colombia has increased by 18 percent within the last year to an estimated 465,000 acres.
How GPS Is Used to Transport Illegal Drug Shipments
These criminal groups are attaching GPS technology to waterproof drug shipments. After traveling from Latin America into the United States, the GPS equipment signal then emits a signal that allows the device to be located. The criminal groups are then able to follow these signals to retrieve the packages.
In some situations, drug cartels attach GPS trackers to the bottom of a boat so that if the vessel is stopped by authorities, the container of drugs can be set loose and later retrieved by another boat. GPS devices also allow criminal organizations to monitor lower-level drug smugglers to make that these individuals are doing as instructed. The advantage of this technology is that crime cartels are able to monitor shipments from a great distance.
These criminal groups also use other basic technology to facilitate additional parts of the drug trade process. In 2016, inmates in El Salvador were discovered to be using the WhatsApp messaging service on smartphones to perform extortion operation.
Techniques Used by the US Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard uses various techniques to combat these shipping methods by criminal groups.
The Coast Guard’s Cutter Stratton vessel is the government’s most advanced ship. Located between Guatemala and El Salvador, experts on the Cutter Straton analyze data from various sources including infrared video, radio, and the Boeing Scan Eagle drone. The recent use of basic GPS technology by these groups, however, has created a significant obstacle for the Coast Guard in intercepting illegal drug shipments because GPS technology is so simple that it eludes more sophisticated technology.
In addition to technology difficulties, the Coast Guard is also understaffed. At the most, five Coast Guard vessels cover an area of about six million square miles from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific.
The Coast Guard has already had some success, however, in combating these groups. In August 2015, the Coast Guard had the largest single offload in the organization’s history. The following year, in 2016, the Coast Guard seized more than 240 tons of cocaine.
The most recent data reveals that the United States is increasing efforts to combat the rising volume of cocaine trade by criminal cartels in Latin America.
If you have been charged or are being investigated for Drug Trafficking, call Attorney Henry Fasoldt