Sep 15, 2016 6:07 PM
Securing the borders to prevent drugs, illegals and terrorists from flowing into the US is one of the biggest challenges facing the United States today. You know it’s a topic that has dominated the presidential race. However, the focus has been mostly on the Southern border and a debate about building a wall. We wanted to find out what’s being done to protect our Northern border.
That job belongs to US Customs and Border Protection. There are three uniformed components—Air and Marine, Border Patrol and Field Operations. We’re focusing on these operations in what’s called the Swanton Sector. This sector covers parts of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire’s borders with Canada. 295 miles of border length—92 of them are water. And this entire area is covered by just 300 agents.
“It does seem like a lot of space for 300 guys but through technology, through intelligence gathering, and stuff like that, we can leverage the manpower we have,” says Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.
We let them show you how they cover all that ground—on land, at sea and up in the air.
“Our primary job is to protect and serve the American people. We’re like that first line of defense”– Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.
“We operate in the shadows. That’s where we’re most comfortable.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.
“Up here the border is a slash and a bunch of boundary markers.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.
“We’re on the slash right now. This zone right here is called the International Boundary Commission Zone. It’s ten feet from the line to the North and 10 feet to the South.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.
“I’ll pan out so you can see what we’re up against here. The landscape, geography, the foliage—all these things come into play, It’s very inhospitable terrain. It provides unique challenges—especially to the agents on the ground, so when we’re flying above it, we can see a lot more. We can cover a lot more area.” – Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.
“It’s very rough driving. It’s rocky, and there’s a lot of bogs, beaver dams, so it’s almost impassable.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.
“You don’t know who it is, you don’t know who is crossing.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.
“Smuggling—human trafficking, drug smuggling, weapons of mass destruction—it could be anything.” – Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.
“… but we have to do our best to catch everyone because we can’t determine with technology we can’t look at the picture and say, we can’t say terrorist, drug dealer, prior deport. We can’t say that until we actually interdict that event, stop it from happening and go back and research and determine who we have.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.
“We’ve got to be right, 100 percent, right? We only get that one chance that one opportunity.” – Kevin Packwood, Professionalism Service Manager, Port of Champlain.
“Up here we use our intelligence, we use our technology, and our experienced manpower to do our jobs.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.
“With the presidential candidate about the wall—I’m the wall. That’s how I feel. I’m the wall.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.
“We look at patterns, trends. We look at information that we’re getting from the agents that are actually out in the field, our sensor crews, and our ATV crews. We take all of that information and with the technology that we have at hand, we build virtual fencing.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.
During our tour—that virtual fencing is put to the test. A call from the Port of Entry about a possible illegal border crossing.
RADIO CALL: “Have you encountered any females? They have a vehicle there with luggage and clothing for a female but no females in the car.”
That female didn’t set off any Border Protection sensors and surveillance systems, but the driver of the car in question finally confesses to helping an 18-year-old from Mexico cross the border…
“We’re looking at a smuggling event right now. Whether it’s organized or not, not sure at this time… We suspect there’s a female somewhere in the woods right now,” says Lague.
Now it’s up to Border Patrol agents to find her. Fortunately, a tip from a border town homeowner leads agents to the right doorstep.
“It’s not an uncommon story,” says Lague. He adds, “This whole stretch that I’m going through at different points has been used for alien smuggling.”
There’s another critical stretch of boundary, agents watch closely—Lake Champlain. Why? Anyone who sails through, can connect to the Hudson River and make it down to New York City—and beyond.
“Did you know the ICW then goes from New York City all the way down around Florida to Brownville Texas? And that’s unchecked [by U.S. Customs and Border Protection]. So with that thought in mind, this is the only checkpoint for boats coming into this part of the country,” says Norman Stetson, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.
The agents who protect our border region from drug traffickers and human smugglers admit their job is extremely challenging and dangerous, but their passion and dedication to protecting our country are boundless.
“They’re relentless. They want to get their product, whether it be human or drugs, they want to get their product across, our job is to stop them,” says Lacey.
Here are some statistics to give you an idea of how much they stop at the border.In the 2015 fiscal year, 2,626 illegal aliens were apprehended across the Northern border. 341 of them in the Swanton Sector. That’s almost one per day.
US Customs and Border Protection can’t say how many got through, but if those people were caught by their cameras, agents are looking for them.
Drug smugglers and human traffickers aren't the only threats U.S. Customs and Border Protection faces at the northern border. We take you behind-the-scenes at the Port of Champlain to show you what other threats they handle on a daily basis.
On average, 700 container trucks pass through Port of Champlain every day.
Officers in the 9 booths at the primary arrival area for commercial vehicles have the daunting task of making sure NOTHING rolls through that could threaten our region and our nation.
“We’re it. We’re the line,” Kevin Packwood, Professionalism Service Manager, Port of Champlain.
Acting Area Port Director Don Yando adds, “What is in the truck? Where is it coming from? Where is it going? Who’s driving the truck?”
If the information doesn’t add up…
“This is a controlled area, so the driver has no choice but to pull over into the garage area, go inside and speak with an officer in there,” says Yando. “From there, the truck could be offloaded and examined further.”
Yando then shares some examples of what people have tried to drive through the border: “We find drugs, we find weapons. We find merchandise that is not manifested, so the importer is trying to fool us because they don’t want to pay that high duty.”
Yando says eight percent of the container trucks—that’s about one out of every 12—will contain a food or product not allowed in the United States.
“These are goods that cannot come into the United States because another government agency has set standards and we’re making sure that those standards are met for these products. In this case, they’re not, so we’re seizing them,” says Yando.
CELINE: “So at the end of the day it’s about safety.” YANDO: “Safety, protecting the American public from harmful products.”
Products deemed harmful by agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, including children’s clothing with buttons that contain too much lead, and counterfeit goods.
“It’s not uncommon for us to see shipments of extension cords or Christmas lights with a counterfeit UL label on them,” says Yando. “So that means the wires are of substandard quality. So if you have those Christmas tree lights and they have a counterfeit UL label on them, you plug them in at your Christmas tree at home, your whole house could go up in flames.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses import specialists to identify these products as well as unwanted pests and pathogens.
“We inspect fruits and vegetable commodities like grain, corn, bulk commodities like that,” says Agricultural Specialist Jason Langlois. He adds, “We also look at lumber for pests.”
Langlois shows us some examples of goods that have been pulled from trucks:
“You can see in some of these, see the holes? Right there. And you can see where they’ve been boring in here. That is a big deal. We have Asian Long-Horned Beetle. What they do is they attack the trees.”
“Some of the citrus fruit would have diseases on them that we don’t want to get down into Florida or California. They would pretty much decimate the crop down there, where we wouldn’t be able to export any fruit to other countries.”
CELINE: “Is it hard to keep up with the latest kinds of pests, the latest diseases, everything that you need to be looking out for? It seems like this would be a very fluid list. LANGLOIS: “It does. It changes almost on a daily basis.”
“We’ve got to be right 100 percent of the time, right? We only get that one chance,” says Packwood. “You’ve got to be on your game every day here. You have to, you don’t have a choice.”
8 hours 44 minutes agoA book cover in a flier distributed at a Manchester Catholic school upset the grandfather of a pre-kindergarten student. (More)
10 hours 36 minutes agoSeveral news outlets were blocked from the off-camera White House press briefing Friday afternoon. (More)
10 hours 39 minutes agoNashua Police say the death of a child at an unlicensed daycare is not suspicious. This isn't the first time DHHS has received complaints...
12 hours 39 minutes agoSalem Police arrested a man they said sold drugs in the shoe department of JC Penny at the Mall at Rockingham Park. (More)
13 hours 18 minutes agoSamsung Galaxy Note7s aren't the only phones catching fire. A viral video posted on Twitter shows an iPhone 7 smoking and melting. (More)
Feb 23, 2017 6:49 PMNeighbors of an unlicensed day care in Nashua where a child died Wednesday said the operation had previously been shut down. (More)
Feb 23, 2017 5:37 PMOwen Labrie's former attorney J.W. Carney took the stand on Thursday to defend his work in the original trial. (More)
Feb 23, 2017 4:45 PMThe seasonal McDonald's on Ocean Boulevard in Hampton that has been a local fixture for more than 39 years has permanently closed. (More)
Feb 23, 2017 4:01 PMKindergartners from Marguerite Hopey's class had the fate of two lovers in their hands Thursday. (More)
Feb 23, 2017 9:03 AMThe Nashua Police Department conducted a drug sweep where they arrested six people for various drug and drug related offenses on Feb. 22. (More)
Feb 22, 2017 7:29 PMPolice arrested 12 University of New Hampshire students and three non-students for destroying three cars after the New England Patriots' Super Bowl victory. (More)
Feb 22, 2017 6:34 PMKeene student Peter Haas and his family arrived at Logan Airport in Boston to board a plane to Florida, but officials denied Peter a...
Feb 22, 2017 5:46 PMNew Hampshire Fish and Game are warning people going out onto the ice to 'be more cautious now than ever.' (More)
Feb 22, 2017 1:49 PMUNH is launching a new program guaranteeing full-time, first-year New Hampshire students who receive federal Pell grants free tuition for the year. (More)
Feb 22, 2017 12:51 PMIn front of a large audience of Republican state lawmakers and gun rights activists, Gov. Chris Sununu made it easier for many Granite Staters...
Feb 22, 2017 12:42 PMAn attorney arguing that a New Hampshire prep school graduate received ineffective counsel during his sexual assault trial says she failed him. (More)
Feb 22, 2017 11:13 AMA newlywed doctor has been reunited with his wife, an Iranian citizen who successfully traveled to the US after President Donald Trump's executive order....
Feb 22, 2017 11:05 AMA prosecutor says DNA testing of bandanas worn as disguises in the killing of a confidential informant last year in Littleton has come back...
Feb 22, 2017 9:07 AMThe 16-year-old girl who went missing in Exeter Tuesday has been found safe. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 8:10 PMMassachusetts State Police warn the public to be on the lookout for the second man connected with a gruesome double-homicide in Peabody. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 6:19 PMTestimony started Tuesday in Owen Labrie's request for a new trial, claiming his counsel was ineffective. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 5:00 PMAn Epping High School athletic trainer saved a young man's life with the help of a bystander at a basketball game Monday. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 2:10 PMAnother case of 'spring fever' is about to hit the Granite State. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 2:02 PMA man accused of stomping on a opponent at a basketball game at a Nashua college also threatened to kill several people, according to...
Feb 21, 2017 11:52 AMPopular cheese brand Sargento has voluntarily expanded its listeria recall. (More)
Feb 21, 2017 11:31 AMOne month and one day into his presidency, the approval ratings of the job Donald Trump’s doing in the White House remains slightly underwater....
Feb 21, 2017 8:54 AMNASA's Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars...
Feb 21, 2017 7:08 AMA hearing is scheduled to begin on whether a NH prep school graduate deserves a new trial on charges he used a computer to...
Feb 20, 2017 6:32 PMHundreds gathered outside the New Hampshire Statehouse on Monday to oppose the actions and decisions of President Donald Trump during his first month in...
Feb 20, 2017 4:26 PMOfficials have identified the NH driver who lost his truck after it fell through thin ice on Lake Winnipesaukee while trying to tow a...
Feb 20, 2017 3:22 PMOne man has been arrested and authorities say another is being sought in connection with a gruesome double-homicide in Peabody, Mass. (More)
Feb 20, 2017 3:01 PMWolfeboro police have charged a father with endangering the welfare of his "small" son after they served him with a warrant. (More)
Feb 20, 2017 1:29 PMOwners of LaValley Farms felt the impact of New Hampshire's extreme drought as they tried to prepare for the spring season. (More)
Feb 20, 2017 12:37 PMA homemade aircraft landed upside down after trying to take off from an Alton Bay runway in NH. (More)
Feb 20, 2017 11:58 AMA Daniel Webster College basketball player is facing assault charges and a video of the attack of an opponent has gone viral, now the...
Feb 20, 2017 11:55 AMSix people were arrested for various drugs charges in the latest Operation Granite Hammer out of Nashua. (More)
Feb 20, 2017 7:23 AMHigh-speed chase ends on F.E. Everett Turnpike Sunday night (More)
Feb 19, 2017 3:26 PMThe mother of a student at Pelham Memorial School is questioning the school's dress code for dances. (More)
Feb 19, 2017 1:41 PMFire crews as well as Fish and Game officers are on site in Alton Bay, where a plane flipped over on the ice runway....