SAN DIEGO — U.S. Border Patrol says there’s been an unusually high number of chases involving its agents and people they tried to pull over near the border in San Diego this month.
On 23 different occasions in October, vehicles that are suspected to be involved in human smuggling have taken off when Border Patrol attempted to stop them in the county, according to USBP. That’s compared to just four, one and five times that happened during the same time period in each of the last three years.
The most recent incident happened Monday around 7 a.m., when agents in Chula Vista tried to stop a car that was believed to be used for smuggling.
“The driver failed to yield and drove his vehicle into a nearby neighborhood,” Border Patrol said in a news release. “All passengers including the driver exited the vehicle and fled.”
The agency said authorities were able to track down a few of those passengers and confirmed they were illegally present in the U.S. The driver escaped at the time but was later tracked down and arrested.
In the nearly two dozen chases from October, “USBP agents witnessed excessive speeds, reckless driving, vehicle crashes, and property damage accounting for numerous injuries and hospitalizations,” officials said.
Border Patrol’s tactics in pursuits and tendency to chase after drivers who won’t stop for them has been placed under scrutiny in recent years. A 2019 investigation by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica found that border chases ended in crashes every nine days on average between 2015 and 2018.
“At speeds deemed by experts to be wildly unsafe, agents box in moving vehicles, puncture tires and employ tactics intended to spin cars off the road,” the report reads, in part. “They initiate dangerous chases after noting that cars are carrying unrestrained children or are packed so far beyond capacity that the weight makes them ‘ride low.’ They catch up to find people screaming and banging from the insides of trunks.”
In February 2020, a man in a truck packed with unsecured passengers led agents on a high-speed chase that ended when he hit a semi-truck on Interstate 8 near Boulevard. The crash left three people dead and seven others injured.
In announcing October’s statistics, the leader of Border Patrol’s San Diego operations placed the onus for dangerous chases squarely on the smugglers who his agents pursue.
“This reckless behavior poses a serious risk to our neighborhoods, the motoring public, and our agents,” Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said. “We will not tolerate these tactics and will continue to seek criminal prosecution for anyone involved in them.”