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High Tech Border Part 2 

Protecting the northern border is difficult task with unique challenges.In High Tech Border Part 1 we heard how Field Officers work to secure the many Ports of Entry in Maine. However, protecting the state’s rural border requires a team effort. The wooded areas of Maine are vast, and many areas close to the border of Canada are sparsely populated. The men and women of Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to patrol that border on land and in the air.”Some of our biggest challenges is the size of Maine. Maine has 611 miles of international border with Canada. Most of it is rural if not very remote and wooded,” says David Astle, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent for the Houlton sector of US Border Patrol. Border Patrol is the division of CBP that protects areas between the ports of entry. Patrol agents are responsible for detecting illegal activity along the border. Astle says, “That includes human smuggling, drug smuggling, and any other type of merchandise smuggling.”After 9-11 an additional task was added to border patrol’s mission. “Which was to detect and apprehend terrorists and terrorist weapons entering illegally into the United States,” explains Astle.To aid in that task the number of agents was increased from 35 to 200 in the Houlton Sector.”Also since 911 we have increased the number of electronic intrusion devices, sensors is what we also call them. These types of sensors indicate and will pick up seismic activity, someone stepping on the ground. We have infrareds, and we have magnetic sensors,” says Astle.”Areas like Stark East Corner are hard to patrol because there’s no real barrier between the US and Canada. Astle explains, “Stark East Corner is particularly well known for us and notorious in the fact that it’s an area that you can drive a vehicle illegally into the state of Maine from Canada.”Driving the speed limit it took us just over 5 minutes to get from Stark East Corner to Rt. 1, where a vehicle can easily blend in with local traffic, making it hard for border patrol to detect. To help patrol areas like this CBP relies on their agents in the air.”We support the ground units, Border Patrol, OFO which is the port, and whenever they need help they call us for air support. We also go out and we patrol on our own, and then we call them if we see anything and we need them to respond. So what we are is a force multiplier for them,” explains James Peters, Air Interdiction Agent for CBP. Air support is new to the northern border. This division has only been here for two years. Five pilots and a director of air operations work staggered shifts to provide coverage from 6am to midnight, but remain on call around the clock.”What are some of the greatest challenges you guys face?” asked reporter Kristen LaVerghetta. “The wide vastness of Maine,” Peters said as he laughed. “The wide open area. Around this area it’s not too bad, but once you get out to the western area the western boundary of Maine there’s nothing out there and that’s where the technology comes in to help us.”Radio systems, flare systems, and sensor systems help the agents with their operations. They have two helicopters and an airplane equipped for night missions.”In the nighttime operations what we have is our flare ball which is infrared so it can pick up people, animals, anything, the difference in heat is what it shows,” Peters explains. The pilot’s helmet is equipped with night vision goggles. Between the forces in the air and those on land, customs and border protection is able to keep a close watch over their territory.Astle says, “One of our goals as we work along is looking at the right mixture of personnel, technology, and infrastructure as we do a particular area.”