Two incomplete drug-smuggling tunnels outfitted with lighting and ventilation systems were discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border near Tijuana, the latest signs that cartels are building sophisticated passages to escape heightened surveillance on land.
They are at least 150 yards long. One began under a bathroom sink inside a warehouse but was unfinished and didn’t cross the border into San Diego. The Mexican army found the tunnel Wednesday.
The other was completed and discovered Saturday in a vacant strip mall storefront in the southwestern Arizona city of San Luis. It showed a level of sophistication not typically associated with other crude smuggling passageways that tie into storm drains in the state.
“When you see what is there and the way they designed it, it wasn’t something that your average miner could put together,” said Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge of the Phoenix division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You would need someone with some engineering expertise to put something together like this.”
As U.S. authorities heighten enforcement on land, tunnels have become an increasingly common way to smuggle enormous loads of heroin, marijuana and other drugs into the country. More than 70 passages have been found on the border since October 2008, surpassing the number of discoveries in the previous six years.
A total of 156 secret tunnels have been found along the border since 1990, the vast majority of them incomplete.
Raids last November on two tunnels linking San Diego and Tijuana netted a combined 52 tons of marijuana on both sides of the border. In early December 2009, authorities found an incomplete tunnel that stretched nearly 900 feet into San Diego from Tijuana, equipped with an elevator at the Mexican entrance.