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High Tech Border Part 1 

On September 11, 2001 many Americans lost their sense of security. Our borders were breached, and we were attacked on our own soil.Since then there’s been an increased focus on national security.Customs and Border Protection, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, is a major force in the fight to protect our nation’s borders. It’s made up of three divisions, Field Operations, Border Patrol, and Air and Marine. “What the office of field operations does for CBP is we control the ports of entry, we enforce importation and exportation laws within the ports of entry.”Even though the relationship between the US and Canada is a friendly one, Christopher Sullivan, Houlton area port director, says a security threat still exists. “In this part of the country we worry about, of course, terrorism, we worry about counterfeit goods, of course narcotics, and fugitives.” Last year alone CBP seized 4.75 million pounds of narcotics. Field Operations also apprehended 9,500 people, wanted for a variety of crimes, who were attempting to go through U.S. ports of entry. Sullivan says cutting edge technology helps CBP identify threats and better protect the border. “After 9-11 the game kind of changed. We’ve implemented a lot of technology to help the officer interdict everything from radiation to narcotics. We have better computer equipment, better inspection tools, everything has changed.”It begins with radiation portals each car must pass through before entering the country. Sullivan explains, “Basically this would detect any type of radioactive element that could be used in a dirty bomb that could be set off in a major metropolitan area that could do a lot of damage.”Vehicles then pass by automatic plate readers. The license plate is read by the device and fed into a computer system, saving the officers time and reducing the amount of errors. “Then if the individual has a passport card or a Nexis card, they’re now incorporating a chip. This is a radio chip reader,” Sullivan says. “So if you had a passport card, your picture and biographical data would appear on the computer screen before you actually arrive to the primary officer.”Sullivan says because of the technology officers have a good idea of who they’re dealing with before they even speak to the person. A different type of screening process is in place for commercial vehicles. A VACIS Truck allows an 18 wheelers to be quickly screened.”What that does, is it x-rays the entire vehicle, so the officers can see around the cargo and in the walls, ” explains Sullivan.”The detectors actually measure the amount of density passing through and project them on this screen. The image is then examined to determine if it has any anomalies that might be in it, and if so we go ahead and open the truck, board the truck, and do an inspection to determine what that anomaly might be.” There are 23 ports of entry in Maine and all can be monitored from the CBP Area Security Center at the Houlton port.”So for instance, a port runner, someone who decides to not stop and drive through a port without being inspected, we’d have it all on film,” Sullivan says, “we’d be able to call the proper authorities, state and locals, boarder patrol, whoever was in the are, so we could interdict someone and bring them back to the port of entry.”This helps ensure officer safety, and is an excellent example of how Field Operations, Border Patrol, and Air and Marine work together, as well as along side other law enforcement agencies.