DETROIT – While there is a lot of focus on the southern border after the declaration of a national emergency, agents and officers are working to secure the northern border in the Detroit area.
The U.S. and Canadian border is the longest international boundary in the world, spanning more than 5,500 miles while the U.S. Mexico border is around 1,900 miles long. In the Detroit area, there are 863 miles of water border with more than 3,800 miles of lake shores and riverbanks.
“On the northern border, we don't have any purpose built physical barriers. We rely primarily on geographic barriers,” said Douglas Harrison, the chief patrol agent for the Detroit Border Patrol Sector.
The Detroit Sector has 421 men and women patrolling the northern border every hour of every day. The sector includes Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.
To secure the border, there are three main components of Customs and Border Protection that work together. The entities are Border Patrol, the Office of Field Operations and the Office of Air and Marine.
“Office of Border Patrol works primarily between the ports of entry. The Office of Field Operations works at the ports of entry and airports for lawful entry, and Air and Marine patrols all of the above. We also capitalize on partnerships. We have a heavy investment in task forces, and we work with our partners each and every day in the communities,” said Douglas Harrison, the chief patrol agent for the Detroit Border Patrol Sector.
The entities rely on their own skills and technology to help patrol the vast area.
“There’s a lot of multitasking going on, that’s for sure, listening to radios, talking on the radios, flying in the aircraft, and paying attention to the targets that are in the water,” said Douglas Muise, an Air Interdiction agent.
As part of his role, he serves as a lookout from above for the Customs and Border Protection Agency. His helicopter is equipped with a mapping system and an infrared camera for day and night surveillance.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s daytime or nighttime; the infrared is a fantastic tool for us to be able to see things at night. We can watch people from five miles away with this camera. They’re not gonna know we’re there, and they’re not gonna hear us or see us,” said Muise.
Muise showed Local 4 a notorious spot near Grosse Ile known for smuggling drugs, weapons and people.
“This is the area that they call the hole in the wall, and there’s a lot of suspicious activity that happens down here as well as known smuggling cases,” said Muise.
Muise said there are “many opportunities for smugglers” anywhere from Lake Eerie all the way up to Lake Huron.
The Air and Marine Operations agents work with Border Patrol agents on the ground.
“We look for human trafficking, human smuggling, narcotics and contraband that come into our area from other places,” said David York, patrol agent in charge for U.S. Border Patrol.
Border Patrol Agent Timothy Earle spoke about an infamous spot in Detroit’s Corktown near the Michigan Central Train Depot, that’s known to smugglers. Smugglers take the tunnel to get from Windsor to the U.S.
“They have a long walk to come along here before they get out of here [the tunnel], and then what they can do is hit straight to the Greyhound bus station and go anywhere they want to go so a lot of times, this is run by organized smuggling groups,” said Earle.
For more information about the Detroit Sector, click here.