Youcan run but you cannot hide

Published on Thu, Sep 2, 2004 by eg Olson

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You can run but you cannot hide

By Meg Olson

The department of homeland security has now got eyes in the sky and on the water to watch for illegal activity at the border and beyond the border.

On August 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE division) unveiled their first northern border Air and Marine Branch (AMB) at the Bellingham airport, the first of five planned along the 49th parallel.

“We thought we’d start at the ends and finish in the middle,” said national AMB communications director Gary Bracken. The focus here is on the northwest corner of the United States.”

When it’s fully operational the branch will have a fixed wing aircraft, two helicopters, an interceptor boat and a small utility boat. A turbo-prop surveillance aircraft will monitor within a 250-mile radius of the Bellingham base. “It’s basically within an hour response, along the border and down into Washington, Oregon,” Bracken said. The aircraft could also respond further afield if necessary, as far as Idaho. The interceptor boat is designed for patrolling local waters and responding to incidents. “It’s a high speed, high capability design that can handle heavy conditions, chase down targets,” Bracken said.
Helicopters can be used for incident response and monitoring of the Whatcom County borders such as Point Roberts that today are monitored little, if at all. They can also be used to keep an eye on Interstate 5, which U.S. Representative Rick Larsen, who attended the AMB opening, said was an important role for the new operation. “Interstate 5 is not only a great trade pipeline but a pipeline for drug and people smuggling,” he said. “I think this is going to be a great addition to many ongoing border issues.”

Bracken said the AMB wasn’t a new idea, just new on the U.S. Canada border.

“It’s taking the resources and experience we’ve had working on the southern border and moving it to the northern tier,” he said.