January 28, 2019

Educational Program Launched at San Diego High Schools to Educate Teenagers about Drug Smuggling

Since early 2018, DEA San Diego Field Division (SDFD) has seen a disturbing trend: Mexican cartels are increasingly recruiting juveniles from high schools in southern San Diego County to smuggle drugs through the Ports of Entry (POE).   In conjunction with partnering agencies, the SDFD agents have arrested numerous juveniles who have had drugs, including fentanyl, strapped on their bodies at both the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa POEs. 

Given this very troubling trend, the SDFD partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection to create a multi-faceted campaign to warn students and parents of the dangers of juvenile drug smuggling; and to prevent youth from being pressured and used by drug cartels to smuggle dangerous drugs across the border.  The campaign includes billboards strategically placed near the southern border and in Tijuana; a social media campaign; and an educational presentation. 

The partnering agencies developed a multi-faceted program designed to inform youth that when they smuggle drugs, they are gambling with their own freedom and futures, as well as endangering the lives of others. 

Since September 2018, DEA and partnering agencies have provided assemblies for high schools, community service providers, teachers, school administrators, and family groups in San Diego County.  The assemblies are presented through a combination of live speakers and video segments. Each component is designed to provide dramatic examples of the consequences that flow from juvenile and young adult smuggling. Content includes:

  • An actual video of a post arrest statement that includes an emotional call by a young defendant to his mother.
  • A video of a mom who lost her son to an opioid overdose; she recounts the continuing ripple effects years later on her entire family.
  • A video of a defendant in juvenile hall who discusses why she smuggled drugs, her life inside juvenile hall, and how the money was not worth the consequences.
  • Information on the medical consequences of fentanyl, which can be dangerous if just inadvertently inhaled.
  • A law enforcement agent warning students about the real likelihood of being caught, arrested, and detained.
  • A prosecutor relaying the very significant direct and collateral consequences of smuggling.
  • Providing resources and protocols to students

The outreach team, comprised of DEA and other partnering agencies, has also presented these educational presentations to community service providers, teachers, school administrators, and family groups. They will continue to provide additional assemblies to San Diego schools and community groups in the coming months.

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