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Mexican drug traffickers turned to trucks during pandemic — Long Haul Crime Log

The latest episode of FreightWaves’ true-crime podcast, Long-Haul Crime Log, examines drug supply chains from Mexico. Pictured is the border crossing in Laredo, Texas. (Photo: CBP)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Laredo, Texas, saw drug traffickers switch to fewer but larger shipments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Commercial trucks became their vehicle of choice.

The latest episode of FreightWaves’ true-crime podcast, Long-Haul Crime Log, examines drug supply chains and what happens when there’s a capacity crunch for narcotics traffickers.

Agents said with the border being closed for nonessential travel since spring 2020, there were a lot less passenger cars crossing the bridge in Laredo. Traffickers thus lost part of their supply chain without passenger cars to try and hide drugs. The next best option was commercial trucks.

During the height of the pandemic, some drug seizures from commercial trucks were as big as $21 million to a record $45 million meth bust in Dallas in January. DEA agents believe the meth seized in Dallas crossed the border in Laredo.

Before the pandemic, the majority of drug seizures at the southern border were worth about $1 million or less.

The amount of some drugs seized during the pandemic also rose significantly compared to 2019, according to data from CBP. 

Methamphetamine seizures went from 10,360 pounds in 2019 to 21,600 pounds last year. In 2019, the amount of fentanyl seized was 117 pounds compared to 712 pounds in 2020.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]