International agencies partner to crackdown on northern border crime

DETROIT - As part of its ongoing effort to combat cross-border crime, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) partners on Thursday highlighted their commitment to security on the northern border.

"The BEST's mission is clear - to collaboratively identify and disrupt transnational criminal organizations exploiting our shared border," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Michigan and Ohio. "The Detroit BEST brings together the people and organizations with the collective experience, authority, and shared determination to make the Michigan-Ontario border, and the communities around them, safer and more secure."

The Detroit BEST - the 17th BEST group initiated in the nation and third on the northern border -focuses its efforts on the following priorities:

* National security and terrorist threats
* Human smuggling and trafficking
* Contraband smuggling
* Money laundering
* Bulk cash smuggling
* Transnational gang activities exploiting the border region
* Other public safety-related cross-border criminal acts

The Detroit BEST team covers 721 miles of international border with Canada. The partnership will synergize the efforts of law enforcement on both sides of the border and create an operating model which will better identify, attack and neutralize the threats identified, whether person, place, or organization. In early October, the Detroit BEST played an integral role in identifying and seizing a large quantity of high-potency marijuana en route to Detroit from British Columbia.

The ICE-led task force is made up of officers from federal, state, local and Canadian law enforcement agencies, including: the U.S. Attorneys Office; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol and Field Operations; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services; the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Michigan State Police; Macomb and Oakland Counties sheriffs' offices; Trenton and Troy police departments; the Detroit Police Department. Canadian law enforcement agencies include: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police and the Windsor Police Service.

In fiscal year 2008, BEST teams nationally seized contraband and other items, including: 1,803 lbs. of cocaine, 52,420 lbs. of marijuana, 121 lbs. of methamphetamine, 25 lbs. of crystal methamphetamine, 850 lbs. of ecstasy, 66 lbs. of heroin, 46 lbs. of hashish, 20 lbs. of opium, 432 weapons, 299 vehicles, four boats, four properties; and more than $8.8 million in U.S. currency and monetary instruments.

There are currently 17 BEST teams based in the following cities: Laredo, Texas; El Paso, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; Rio Grande Valley, Texas; Blaine, Wash.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Yuma, Ariz.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Tucson, Ariz.; Imperial Valley, Calif.; Deming, N.M.; Las Cruces, N.M.; New York/New Jersey; Miami, Fla.; Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.; Mexico City, Mexico, and now Detroit, Mich.