There are 15 IBETs in 24 locations working in the land, air and marine environments between the ports of entry along the Canada/U.S. border. These multi-agency intelligence-led enforcement teams augment the integrity and security of the border by identifying, investigating and interdicting individuals and organizations that pose a threat to the security of both nations.
This Canada/United States IBET Threat Assessment was compiled by IBET partners, based on available information. The purpose of this report is to apprise IBET partners of trends, new developments, threats and vulnerabilities to the Canada/U.S. border between the ports of entry, unless otherwise specified. It is intended to provide an overview only of illegal activity with a cross-border nexus.
This document was jointly prepared by members of the following agencies who comprise the IBET Threat Assessment Working Group:
This document was prepared with contributions from the following IBET regions:
The dedicated work and effort from all participants is greatly appreciated and contributed to the overall success of this document.
Organized crime groups1 and criminal entrepreneurs2 were the predominant threats encountered by IBET regions between the ports of entry in 2009. Crime groups typically planned and coordinated, while criminal entrepreneurs and some local groups carried out the smuggling of people and illegal goods including drugs, currency, firearms, vehicles, and contraband tobacco. The majority of this activity occurred closer to major population hubs near the border where many of the identified crime groups are established.
The internet and sophisticated technology have enhanced the ability of cross-border criminals to coordinate and stealthily conduct illegal activity while remaining anonymous. They use counter-surveillance and diversion tactics, and are electronically savvy, leveraging current technology to their advantage. As this connectivity grows, detection of criminal activity is becoming more challenging for law enforcement.
Criminals continued to use the latest technology in attempting to conceal their cross-border activity. Smugglers' capabilities included communication using cellular and satellite phones, smart phones, text messaging, and marine band radios; navigating using GPS devices; monitoring of law enforcement using tools such as scanners to check unsecured radio transmissions; night vision equipment and camouflage clothing. Counter-surveillance by smugglers, whether on foot, vehicle or vessel was common.
Human smuggling and un-facilitated illegal entry3 between the ports of entry continues to be a primary concern, as the intentions of those seeking illegal entry is not immediately known, and this is a critical gap for law enforcement. For the third consecutive year, the majority of individuals were detained for illegally entering Canada from the U.S. between the ports of entry. Overall, however, there was a decrease in apprehensions. The numbers of un-facilitated entries were higher than human smuggling interdictions, and were the highest in the Pacific, Champlain and Eastern IBET regions.
The arrivals of the vessel Princess Easwary (aka Ocean Lady) off the coast of Vancouver Island with 76 illegal migrants from Sri Lanka onboard and human smuggling incidents involving 28 Sri Lankans in the Eastern and Champlain IBET regions were unforeseen events in 2009. The impetus for these occurrences was likely the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and the popularity of Canada as a choice destination to apply for refugee status.
As reported in previous years, marihuana and Ecstasy produced in Canada continued to be smuggled into the U.S., while cocaine transported through the U.S. was smuggled into Canada. This cross-border smuggling occurred mainly between the ports of entry in the Pacific, Windsor/Detroit and Québec/New York border regions. The use of low-flying aircraft to smuggle illicit drugs between both countries continued to be a concern in 2009.
Millions of dollars, most likely the proceeds of crime, are seized when it illegally crosses the Canada/U.S. border, both at the land ports of entry and between the ports of entry. Illegal activities such as illicit drug, contraband and even human smuggling generate proceeds of crime that need to be laundered. To minimize the need for bulk currency smuggling, criminals often exchange one illicit commodity for another; For example, Canadian-produced marihuana is exchanged for cocaine, firearms or contraband tobacco. (Source: Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) 2009 Report on Organized Crime)
The popularity of owning and carrying firearms by individual members of organized crime groups encourages the smuggling of illicit firearms into Canada from the U.S., and criminal entrepreneurs with contacts to acquire illicit firearms continue to find ways to conceal and smuggle firearms, mostly through the ports of entry from the U.S. into Canada.
Contraband tobacco seizures between the ports of entry increased, but Canada-bound quantities decreased in 2009. This contraband came from different manufacturing facilities, with the largest producers located in the Akwesasne Territory that straddles the borders of Ontario, Québec and New York State, and the Kahnawake Territory near Montreal. It then moved steadily and persistently across Canada in significant amounts, facilitated by organized crime groups and entrepreneurs.
Smugglers use a variety of transportation methods in the land, marine and air environment at the Canada/U.S. border depending on border demographics, geography and seasonal conditions. Commercial transport trucks, rental vehicles, passenger vehicles equipped with hidden compartments, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, sleds, boats, rafts, jet-skis, commercial vessels, aircraft (helicopters, float planes), on foot, swimming, and backpacking are all popular means. Couriers, transport truck drivers, transport companies, and pilots are employed by criminal groups to smuggle a variety of commodities. They utilize the ports of entry, remote roads, unguarded roads, train tracks, trails and waterways. There were more reported incidents of rail being used to surreptitiously cross the border in 2009. In winter, in some marine environments, the rivers freeze solid enough to support snowmobile and some vehicular crossings.
The following key findings, covering the period from January 1 to December 31, 2009, are based on the analysis of available information collected from all IBET regions. Rather than an overview of the scope of illegal activity on a national or international level, these findings are an overview of illegal activity with a cross-border nexus.
Canada and the United States acknowledge that organized crime activity is a threat to the economic integrity and national security of both countries. The "supply and demand" premise that drives legitimate markets also applies to many criminal activities. Entrepreneurial crime groups adjust quickly to changes in their markets and diversify to satisfy current demands. Taking advantage of economic decline, criminal activities such as cross-border trafficking/smuggling of contraband tobacco and counterfeit goods, result in heavy tax losses to both governments.
As in previous years, organized crime was the prime threat encountered in IBET regions in 2009. Crime groups typically planned and coordinated, while criminal entrepreneurs and some local groups carried out the smuggling of people and illegal goods including drugs, currency, firearms, vehicles, and contraband tobacco. The majority of this activity occurred closer to the major population hubs near the border: Pacific – Vancouver and Seattle; Niagara Frontier – Toronto and Buffalo; Windsor/Detroit – Toronto and Detroit; Central St. Lawrence Valley, Valleyfield, Champlain and Eastern – Montréal4.
The overall threat level from crime groups and criminal entrepreneurs in non-urban regions of the border – Rocky Mountain, Prairie, Red River, Superior, and Sault Ste. Marie - is generally lower. As enforcement is heightened in busier IBET regions and population hubs, smuggling activity could be displaced to these other regions.
To keep costs and risk to criminal operations minimal, "tried and true" methods5 were most often employed by crime groups and entrepreneurs. Making use of the ports of entry and between the ports of entry on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border, crime groups easily moved their smuggling activities when their operating environments changed. One such group, active for many years, and suspected of smuggling illicit drugs (primarily cocaine from Mexico), has been encountered in the Rocky Mountain, Red River, and Windsor/Detroit regions. The Champlain IBET also identified a highly organized crime group based out of Brossard, Québec, whose criminal activity extended along the border in the Eastern, Champlain and Valleyfield areas. This group provided marihuana to New England as well as the New York/New Jersey area.
The ownership of property along the border by criminal entities also facilitates the cross-border transportation of illicit commodities and illegal migrants. This is a reality in many IBET regions, from the Pacific to Eastern regions, and is a challenge for law enforcement when attempting to interdict illegal activity on private property at the border.
The internet and sophisticated technology has enhanced the ability of cross-border criminals to remain anonymous, coordinate and stealthily conduct illegal activity. They use counter-surveillance and diversion tactics, and are electronically savvy, leveraging current technology to their advantage. As this connectivity grows, detection of criminal activity is becoming more challenging for law enforcement.
Crime groups continue to compartmentalize their operations. Those involved in one phase of the smuggling operation, especially those involved with the risky cross-border portion, generally have no knowledge of the rest of the organization. Their instructions are likely received not knowing the individual(s) providing the instructions, or through a single contact. This makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to develop a clear understanding of the hierarchy of an organization as the relationship between the groups planning and organizing the criminal activity and the entrepreneurs who carry out the activity is often undefined.
Within the Pacific and Okanagan IBET regions, several identified crime groups, are well established and have connections in the U.S. Additional crime groups and criminal entrepreneurs were reported in 2009, and were involved in cocaine, marihuana, Ecstasy, or firearms smuggling, money laundering, and to a lesser extent human smuggling.
In 2009 the illicit activities of one organized crime group located in the Central St. Lawrence Valley region was interrupted when Randy Square and Kenneth Cree, alleged leaders of a large-scale drug trafficking organization based on the Akwesasne Territory, were arrested. With estimated sales of more than $30 million a year, and residences in both countries, Mr. Square ran a successful empire for approximately 10 years.
Twenty-six individuals were arrested as a result of this investigation and the following was seized: $200,000 worth of tools, a surveillance camera, a large truck, boats, luxury SUVs, ATVs and snowmobiles, and fish tanks which were constructed with hidden compartments to conceal drugs and currency. The drugs were transported by boat, snowmobile, and modified vehicles across the Canada/U.S. border to markets in New York State.
In the Prairie, Superior and Sault Ste. Marie IBET regions, criminal entrepreneurs generally travel domestically east/west, not cross-border, to access criminal markets.
In the Windsor/Detroit and Niagara Frontier IBET regions the main enterprise of crime groups and entrepreneurs in 2009 was the smuggling of marihuana, cocaine, Ecstasy, and people, and to a lesser extent money laundering and firearms smuggling.
Local crime groups on First Nation reserves that are near or span the Canada/U.S. border continue to be a concern. The unique geographical situation of the Akwesasne Territory, which borders Ontario, Québec and New York State, poses challenges to law enforcement agencies from multiple jurisdictions on both sides of the border. Many of the crime groups identified in this region have ties with other groups from Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal and major cities in the U.S. Several are well-established with legitimate businesses in the region, which they use to launder money. These groups are opportunistic, entrepreneurial and wealthy.
The effects of the lucrative contraband tobacco industry in Central St. Lawrence Valley region continued to be felt in the Valleyfield and Thousand Islands areas, as this commodity was transported through these regions to many other destinations in Canada.
In the Valleyfield region crime groups were responsible for the smuggling of marihuana, cocaine, contraband cigarettes, currency, and to a lesser degree firearms and alcohol between the ports of entry. Several of the crime groups from this region were also active in the Akwesasne Territory, or had close ties to crime groups in that area.
Human smuggling activity in the Eastern and Champlain IBET regions continued to be a concern in 2009. Several crime groups based in Toronto and Montreal smuggled mostly Colombian and Sri Lankan nationals from the U.S. into Canada, using unguarded roads between the ports of entry.
The Atlantic (New Brunswick/Maine) IBET region identified crime groups who were involved in the smuggling of marihuana, Ecstasy, cocaine, currency or people. All of these groups were locally based and all used both the ports of entry and areas between the ports of entry for smuggling.
Human smuggling and un-facilitated illegal entry between the ports of entry at the Canada/U.S. border continues to be a primary concern, as the intentions of those seeking illegal entry is not immediately known, and this is a critical gap for law enforcement.
Human smugglers profit from the illegal movement of people. Unscrupulous immigration consultants in both Canada and the U.S. are also suspected of serving as facilitators, charging exorbitant amounts of money to help illegal migrants establish themselves in Canada.
Since November 2008, human smuggling incidents involving 28 Sri Lankan nationals occurred along the Canada/U.S. border in the Québec/New York area. The Sri Lankan nationals were smuggled through unguarded roads into Canada in the Champlain and Eastern IBET areas in order to apply for refugee status. The Pacific region also experienced a similar situation with the arrival of 76 illegal migrants from Sri Lanka onboard the vessel Princess Easwary (aka Ocean Lady) off the coast of Vancouver Island in October 2009.
In 2009, for the third consecutive year the majority of individuals were detained illegally entering Canada from the U.S. between the ports of entry; 842 were Canada-bound and 779 were U.S.-bound. Overall, there was a decrease in apprehensions in 2009; 1621 in 2009, compared to 1771 in 2008.
In 2009, the numbers of un-facilitated entries between the ports of entry were higher than human smuggling interdictions, and were the highest in the Pacific, Champlain and Eastern IBET regions.
The popularity of the Champlain and Eastern IBET regions for illegal migration continued in 2009, through the unguarded roads, which can be viewed in open sources such as Google and Yahoo maps, and are easily accessed by vehicle. Individuals from many foreign countries crossed the border illegally in both directions using these unguarded roads, and without proper status or documents authorizing their legal presence. The illegal migration of Colombian nationals to Canada from the U.S. was more frequently encountered; however, there were also other South and Central American nationals involved in cross-border incidents, both at and between the ports of entry.
Interviews with the Colombian nationals revealed personal initiative, internet research, or altruistic advice from family members and friends were the only tools the migrants used to organize their cross-border trips, in search of what they believed to be better lives and opportunities for economic prosperity.
In 2009, Eastern IBET noted a considerable decrease in the number of human smuggling events, compared to 2008 events, and also a decrease in the number of intercepted illegal migrants. As in previous years, a large proportion of the human smuggling events originated from the U.S., attempting entry into Canada, and involved Colombian nationals with irregular or illegal status in the U.S.
Several IBET regions do not have a significant urban population near the border, such as Rocky Mountain, Prairie, Red River, Sault Ste. Marie, and Superior regions. Apprehensions in these areas are typically the un-facilitated entry of individuals whose only intent was to cross the border. In the prairie regions, most were individuals who walked across the border and were picked up on the other side by friends or family members.
These areas may be seen as trouble-free access points to both countries, due to their vast landscape and sparse population. Mapping programs such as Google Earth provide a visual of the border, which, to the uninformed, looks easy to cross. Factors such as weather, road conditions, marine environments, and vast distances, typically with no services, are often not taken into consideration.
MARINE: As in 2008, the majority of migrants apprehended between the ports of entry in the Windsor/Detroit IBET region were associated to human smuggling activity. In two incidents the individuals crossed un-facilitated; one by swimming and the other by renting a canoe and paddling across the St. Clair River.
The Niagara Frontier and Thousand Islands IBET regions usually encounter seasonal boaters who accidently cross the border or fail to report. Generally these boaters are advised of the proper procedure for reporting and are granted a voluntary departure. There were, however, incidents of human smuggling in both regions.
In the Central St. Lawrence Valley region, human smuggling incidents that occurred in the marine environment included the use of vehicles on the ice-bridge and snowmobiles in the winter months.
In the Champlain IBET region, 105 incidents involving approximately 122 individuals were observed or interdicted in the maritime cross-border environment on Richelieu River. The majority of these involved leisure boating, not criminal activities.
The most prevalent illicit drugs smuggled cross-border between the ports of entry to Canada and the U.S. continue to be marihuana, cocaine and Ecstasy.
As in previous years, the trend of Canadian-produced marihuana and Ecstasy being smuggled into the U.S. and cocaine transiting the U.S. to Canada continued.
The use of low-flying aircraft to smuggle illicit drugs between both countries continued to be a concern in 2009. One particular example demonstrates that the extent of this activity could be significant. In November 2009, two Canadians were arrested while in the process of picking up 100 lbs of marihuana and 300 lbs of Ecstasy in Sandusky, Ohio. The drugs had been smuggled cross-border by a small aircraft. The group responsible utilized small aircraft to make several previous flights from Canada to Michigan, delivering large amounts of Ecstasy and marihuana. Seven individuals were arrested for their involvement in this smuggling activity following this investigation.
MARIHUANA: As in previous years, the cross-border smuggling of marihuana between the ports of entry occurred mainly in the Pacific and Québec/New York border regions, from Canada to the U.S.
In 2009, the amounts of U.S.-bound marihuana (seizures and quantities) smuggled between the ports were the lowest since 2006. An increase was noted, however, in the Pacific/Okanagan IBET regions. The decreases were most noteworthy in the Québec/New York IBET regions.
A decline in the quantity of marihuana being seized between the ports of entry could be attributed to a number of factors, such as enhanced enforcement between the ports of entry; successful intelligence-led investigations and arrests inland in both countries; the lower risk of discovery for smugglers at busy ports of entry; and/or increased domestic production in the U.S.
In the Central St. Lawrence Valley area, successful investigations6 confirmed that marihuana smuggled from Québec transited the Akwesasne Territory for delivery to points south in the U.S.
COCAINE: There was a moderate increase in Canada-bound cocaine seizures and quantities between the ports of entry in 2009. Cocaine was typically smuggled through the ports of entry into Canada at busier crossings.
ECSTASY: Canada's production of Ecstasy also supplies its domestic market. It is produced in sophisticated laboratories, primarily located in British Columbia, Ontario and Québec, and is most commonly smuggled cross-border into the U.S. in Michigan, New York and Washington States. British Columbia appears to be the main staging point for such shipments.
In 2009, the highest amounts of U.S.-bound seizures of Ecstasy since 2006 occurred. Seizures reached an all-time high in 2009 in the Pacific region.
In 2009, in the Pacific/Okanagan IBET regions, the quantity of U.S.-bound Ecstasy seized between the ports of entry was greater than that at the ports of entry. This was also the case in the Champlain IBET region.
Millions of dollars, most likely the proceeds of crime, are seized when it illegally crosses the Canada/U.S. border, both at the land ports of entry and between the ports of entry.
Illegal activities such as illicit drug, contraband and even human smuggling generate proceeds of crime that need to be laundered. To minimize the need for bulk currency smuggling, criminals often exchange one illicit commodity for another; For example, Canadian-produced marihuana is exchanged for cocaine, firearms or contraband tobacco. (Source: Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) 2009 Report on Organized Crime)
The number and dollar value of U.S.-bound seizures between the ports of entry decreased in 2009, the lowest number of seizures since 2005. The dollar value of Canada-bound seizures decreased significantly; however the seizure number remained the same as in 2008. The 2009 numbers show slightly more currency entered the U.S. than Canada, but the difference is negligible.
In 2009, the most noticeable difference was the increase in dollar amounts, going both directions, in the Central St. Lawrence Valley region, compared to 2008. In neighbouring Valleyfield IBET area, Canada-bound amounts were higher than U.S.-bound. These regions are typically exploited by crime groups and entrepreneurs from the Akwesasne Territory. The currency seized was most probably the proceeds of crime from these groups.
Currency has been discovered in briefcases, envelopes, packages, backpacks and luggage, as well as being discovered in plain view with no attempt at concealment.
The smuggling of firearms is encountered predominantly at the ports of entry on the Canada/U.S. border. Notable quantities are seized as they move into Canada from the U.S. It is important to note that some of these weapons may be legally possessed in Canada or the U.S., but are seized due to improper documentation, lack of import/export permits, or failure to declare them.
The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) annual Reports on Organized Crime informs the Canadian public on criminal markets and influences within Canada and from other countries. The smuggling of firearms into Canada is one such market in which organized crime groups are known to be involved to some extent. That said, the smuggling and trafficking of firearms may not be their main activity. Criminal entrepreneurs and groups drive the illicit firearms market mostly as consumers, and occasionally in sales to other criminals.
Numbers and seizures of smuggled firearms between the ports of entry bound for Canada have steadily declined since 2005.
The majority of IBET regions have identified criminal groups and/or entrepreneurs who are involved in the cross-border smuggling of firearms from the U.S. into Canada. Firearms do not appear to be the predominant commodity smuggled in most cases; illicit drugs, people, currency and contraband tobacco smuggling appear to be the dominant focus.
The popularity of owning and carrying firearms by individual members of organized crime groups encourages the smuggling of illicit weapons into Canada from the U.S., and criminal entrepreneurs with contacts to acquire firearms continue to find ways to conceal and smuggle firearms, mostly through the ports of entry from the U.S. into Canada.
The demand for cheap cigarettes in Canada continues to fuel the cross-border contraband tobacco trade. Various large manufacturing facilities on the U.S. side of the Akwesasne Territory (St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation)7 supply some of this market using distribution networks that extend throughout Canada. This Territory, located in the Central St. Lawrence IBET region, is the largest conduit for contraband tobacco smuggled into Canada from the U.S.
In June 2009, the CBSA port of entry in this region relocated to the entrance of the Seaway International Bridge, Cornwall. This meant that Cornwall Island residents entering Canada from the U.S. would have to cross the Bridge to report to the Canadian port of entry, and then return to the Island.
The relocation of the port of entry and an increased RCMP uniformed presence on land displaced smuggling activity to the water. They moved larger contraband loads at night, not only in this region but also in the Valleyfield IBET area of responsibility. The movement of these suspect vessels, operating without navigational lights at night, was a common occurrence.
Seizures of contraband tobacco between the ports of entry increased, but quantities decreased in 2009 compared to 2008. These seizures were predominantly from the Central St. Lawrence Valley, Valleyfield and Thousand Islands IBET regions, and the contraband originated from the Akwesasne Territory.
The smuggling of various commodities occurs at both the ports of entry and between the ports of entry across the Canada/U.S. border. The busier ports of entry are typically targeted as smugglers weigh the risk of trying to blend in with legitimate travelers, or risking detection by law enforcement efforts on both sides of the border. Between the ports of entry, the use of technology and other law enforcement endeavours, seasonal weather conditions, harsh terrain, water currents and tides, and even wildlife are all factors to be considered and dealt with by smugglers. Using the less attractive or challenging environments requires more planning and coordination.
In 2009, for the third consecutive year, more individuals were detained illegally entering Canada from the U.S. between the ports of entry than individuals trying to illegally enter the U.S.
As in previous years, currency continued to be smuggled between Canada and the U.S; cocaine, contraband tobacco, and firearms were bound for Canada; and, marihuana and Ecstasy were bound for the U.S.
There were several notable distinctions in cross-border commodity smuggling between the ports of entry in 2009:
Currency – the value of seizures decreased, the lowest since 2005;
Cocaine – quantity seized increased in 2009, compared to 2008, but was still lower than 2005 – 2007 levels;
Marihuana – a decrease in the quantity seized, the lowest quantity seized since 2005; Firearms – a decrease in seizures, to the lowest number seized since 2005;
Contraband tobacco – the number of seizures increased, compared to 2008;
Currency – the value and number of seizures decreased compared to 2008;
Marihuana – a decrease in the quantity seized, the lowest quantity seized since 2005;
Ecstasy – an increase in seizures and quantity, the highest recorded.
Smugglers use a variety of transportation methods in the land, marine and air environment at the Canada/U.S. border depending on border demographics, geography and seasonal conditions. Commercial transport trucks, rental vehicles, passenger vehicles equipped with hidden compartments, ATVs, snowmobiles, sleds, boats, rafts, jet-skis, commercial vessels, aircraft (helicopters, float planes), on foot, swimming, and backpacking are all popular means. Couriers, transport truck drivers, transport companies, and pilots are employed by criminal groups to smuggle a variety of commodities. They use the ports of entry, remote roads, unguarded roads, train tracks, trails and waterways. In some marine environments, the rivers freeze solid enough to support snowmobile and some vehicular crossings in winter.
Contraband smuggled on foot across the Canada/U.S. border was typically carried in backpacks and hockey bags, and then loaded into vehicles on the other side of the border. In 2009, there were a larger number of incidents where ATVs were used.
There were more incidents of rail being used to surreptitiously cross the border in 2009. In the Windsor/Detroit IBET region, rail apprehensions occurred more frequently during the winter months when water transportation was limited.
LAND: The mode of conveyance varies depending on the geography. Typically in the land environment, the main mode of conveyance is by vehicle or on foot.
The primary mode of transportation used by persons illegally crossing the border in the prairie regions is by wheeled vehicles. In favorable weather, small vehicles are able to cross at certain illegal crossings. In other areas, large 4-wheel drive pick-ups or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are used in the summer. In some areas, ATVs would be required, even in the summer due to terrain conditions. Weather and snow conditions from December to March make it impossible to cross the border unless travelling by larger 4-wheel drive trucks, ATVs or snowmobiles in many areas.
The Champlain and Eastern IBET regions are characterized by unguarded roads permitting unencumbered access to Canada and the U.S. They are easily accessed by vehicle and can be clearly viewed on the internet at sites such as Google and Yahoo maps. In 2009, two of these unguarded roads (Lee/Pelow and Ball/Maple Streets) in the Stanstead, Québec/Derby Line, Vermont region were closed by gates.
In the Champlain region, there are three unguarded roads and four ports of entry that are closed at night and blocked by a gate. There are over ten public or private routes that are barricaded prohibiting automobile access, but easily provide a right of way on foot, snow-mobile or ATV.
Snowmobiles are favored by those who transport contraband across the border. This is due to their inherent speed, stealth, and ability to blend in with legitimate snowmobile traffic, as well as their capability to travel where most law-enforcement vehicles cannot.
AIR: Since 2006, to a large extent, smuggling by aircraft has moved out of the Pacific IBET region, and drug smuggling activity has shifted from land to air in the Okanagan IBET region. Several physical factors favour air smugglers; mountains trend north-south and provide excellent terrain for masking low-flying aircraft crossing the border. National forests/crown lands, logging roads, and other country roads provide access to landing sites and the relatively sparse population reduces the chance of detection. There are numerous remote uncontrolled airstrips and bodies of water that provide landing sites for floatplanes.
Information that suspicious low-flying aircraft are being used to transport illicit drugs continues to be reported in various IBET regions.
MARINE: The marine environment is particularly susceptible to smuggling activity. Recreational vessels, large vessels, rubber rafts and personal watercraft (jet-skis) appear to be the preferred means of conveyance. Jet-skis are of particular concern as they can be transported and launched from remote locations; can travel at high speeds; and can carry large loads.
The Red River area includes a marine component: Lake Metigoshe, and the Northwest Angle, a peninsula that extends into the Lake of the Woods and encompasses Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota. In this environment, a variety of conveyances are used for cross-border illegal activity. In the summer boats are used on the water, and in winter sleds are pulled across the ice.
The most popular marine route for the organized movement of people in the Windsor/Detroit IBET region remains the Walpole Island-Algonac corridor.
The border in the Central St. Lawrence Valley area is 85% water (St. Lawrence River), with a portion located on the Akwesasne Territory. In this marine environment, personal water craft, including jet-skis, are used in the summer months. In the winter, once the water freezes, snowmobiles are used to transport contraband. Suspect vessels, operating without navigational lights at night, are a common occurrence.
Numerous canals exist in the marine environment of the Valleyfield IBET, offering access to the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake St. François, which are part of a major transportation route used by legitimate commercial cargo ships and recreational boaters. Small residential docks and inland canal systems on Lake St. François are also used by organized crime to transport contraband, especially tobacco, and facilitate currency exchange.
Ice fishing season on rivers and lakes that form part of the border between northeastern Maine and New Brunswick can allow cross-border smugglers to blend in with legitimate fishing traffic. Certain segments of these international waters are open for ice fishing to anyone with a Maine or New Brunswick fishing license. It is possible for criminals to blend in with legitimate ice fishing traffic before crossing illegally into the U.S. or Canada on foot, via snowmobile or vehicle depending on the thickness of the ice.
The coastal areas on both sides of the Maine/Nova Scotia border are easily reached by air and maritime conveyances. Pleasure craft, fishing vessels, passenger vessels, and merchant vessels can reach virtually any port of entry undetected.
The joint marine patrol project - the Integrated Maritime Security Operation formerly known as SHIPRIDER - was formalized in May 2009 with the signing of the Framework Agreement. The Agreement provides the legal framework for RCMP and the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct joint law enforcement operations along the maritime border. It provides the means, in shared waterways, to prevent, detect, suppress, investigate, and prosecute criminal offences or violations of law through the cross-designation of maritime law enforcement officers from both countries.
It is widely acknowledged that organized crime is transnational, and that crime groups adjust quickly to global market demands expanding their operations across open borders.
Canada and the United States recognize that organized crime activity is a threat to the economic integrity and national security of both countries. At the Canada/U.S. border crime groups exploit the ports of entry and the area between the ports, whichever is the most convenient to serve their immediate circumstance and purpose. They are not restricted by jurisdictional boundaries; are progressive, innovative and flexible, adapting quickly to changes in their distribution networks and weaknesses8 at international borders.
Illicit drug and currency seizures, illegal entries, and human smuggling incidents at and between the ports of entry are indications that crime groups and criminal entrepreneurs are exploiting border vulnerabilities and gaps, and that it is not possible to eliminate all threats from organized crime along the border.
Protecting the border does not start or stop at the physical border. It requires a multifaceted approach. Fostering partnerships with agencies that investigate crime with a cross-border nexus is crucial to IBET investigations and interdictions of cross-border criminal activity. Moreover, a Canadian IBET uniformed presence would certainly provide some level of deterrence and prevention against border violations.
There was a notable change in seizures and quantities of various commodities between the ports of entry in 2009. The value of currency seizures bound for Canada decreased in 2009, the lowest since 2005. Compared to 2008, the value and number of currency seizures bound for the U.S. decreased as well. There was also a decrease in the quantity of marihuana seized enroute to the U.S., also the lowest seized since 2005. Increases were noted in cocaine bound for Canada: quantity seized increased in 2009, compared to 2008, but was still lower than 2005 – 2007 levels. Also there was an increase in U.S. bound Ecstasy seizures and quantities, the highest recorded.
As criminals continue to exploit the border using increasingly sophisticated concealment methods, technological aids, counter surveillance, and in some cases carrying firearms, the coordination and continued sharing of criminal information and intelligence by IBET partners is essential, as well as joint operations such as the Integrated Maritime Security Operation – better known as "SHIPRIDER"9.
1 Crime "groups" (aka "organizations") are comprised of three or more persons and have as one of their main purposes or activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences that would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit.
2 Criminal "entrepreneurs" may be either: independent individuals who facilitate or commit one or more serious offences that would likely result in the receipt of a material benefit, or two or more individuals who collaborate to facilitate or commit one or more serious offences that would likely result in the receipt of a material benefit, but do not present the characteristics of a criminal "group".
4 In April 2009, almost all the members and many affiliates of the Hells Angels Sherbrooke chapter were arrested in Quebec. Members were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, drug trafficking and gangsterism linked to crimes that occurred between 1992 and 2009. Operation "SharQc" targeted more than 150 Hells Angels members and affiliates in Quebec, New Brunswick, France and the Dominican Republic in an effort to disrupt alleged drug and gang activity.
6 The arrest of Randy Square in 2009 dismantled a crime group that smuggled millions of dollars worth of marihuana through the Akwesasne Territory to the U.S. (New York State) over a period of six years.
8 These weaknesses include (but are not restricted to) unguarded roads and unmanned seasonal ports of entry; cross-border self reporting processes which are vulnerable to exploitation; and a lack of accurate pleasure-craft registration data.
9 The SHIPRIDER Program was created in 2005 - USCG officers and RCMP members jointly patrolled shared waterways in several pilots in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and in the Pacific being able to move across the marine border to pursue criminals. If an arrest was to be effected in the U.S. the USCG officer was the lead; and if in Canada the RCMP officer was the lead.