Customs and Border Protection (CBP) organizations are charged with protecting public safety by serving as guardians of a nation’s borders. They are on the front lines, balancing the interdiction of suspicious shipments with keeping commerce moving and are expected to facilitate legitimate trade while stemming the overwhelming, constant flow of suspect shipments.
Threat identification for customs and border agents involves many issues, many scenarios, and many people. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that on a typical day in Fiscal Year 2019, they processed 1,124,075 passengers and pedestrians (371,912 incoming international air passengers and crew, 70,414 passengers and crew on arriving ship/boat, 681,750 incoming land travelers), 273,338 incoming privately owned vehicles, 78,703 truck, rail, and sea containers, $7.3 billion worth of imported products, 97,342 entries of merchandise at air, land, and sea ports of entry. And this is done all over the world:
- 52 countries with more than 1,700 CBP employees working internationally
- 328 ports of entry within 20 field offices
- 135 Border Patrol stations within 20 sectors including 35 immigration checkpoints
- 74 Air and Marine Operations locations, including branches and units, National Air Security Operations Centers, and the Air and Marine Operations Center.
Despite their constant vigilance, the world’s ports of entry and borders can serve as gateways for illegal narcotics, new synthetic drugs, explosives, precursors, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, unknown chemicals and radiation threats.
The European Commission explains that the EU follows a multi-layered risk based approach regarding Customs Security. The EU is one of the largest trading blocks in the world: in 2015, the EU accounted for almost 15% of world trade in goods, worth €3.5 trillion. Their recent funding report, explained:
“Managing this volume of international trade requires handling millions of customs declarations per year in a fast and efficient manner. But customs are also there to protect. They play an important role in the fight against terrorism by checking for the illegal trafficking of firearms and illegal trade in works of art and cultural goods. They protect consumers against goods which present a risk to health and safety. For example, 454.2 tonnes of drugs, 35 million counterfeit goods and 3.2 billion cigarettes were seized in the EU in 2014. Appropriate controls require fast, high-quality and updated information and sound coordination among the customs administrations of our Member States.”
Last year, the FOCUS TAIWAN news channel reported that the Taiwan Investigation Bureau warned of a sharp rise in the consumption of illegal drugs, urging relevant agencies to tackle the problem and proposing law enforcement cooperation with other countries to combat increased cross-border drug trafficking. The report explained that given Taiwan’s location and its strong distant-sea fishing industry, the island has been increasingly used by international drug rings as a transshipment hub for drug trafficking. (Read more here.)
It’s a daunting task, but CBP organizations are on the front lines, balancing the interdiction of suspicious shipments with keeping commerce moving. With a mission to safeguard the public by safeguarding the products and raw materials that enter through ports of entry and borders, customs and border protection personnel can achieve success through international collaboration, targeted operations, and the deployment of innovative technology.
Innovative technology includes handheld safety identification instruments that can help agents and officers accurately analyze products at the port of entry, holding up only those shipments that potentially pose the greatest risk. Teams can be armed with instruments that can identify illegal narcotics, potential hazardous or explosive materials, and items emitting radiation. Results are immediate for fast, informed decisions.
With millions of people being processed all over the world in one day, I’m sure those who find themselves waiting at the borders are clamoring for immediate and accurate processing.
Suggested additional reading: Customs and border protection on the front line