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Reports say that violent incidents along the U.S. border in the sector in Northern New England is up.
The Swanton sector is responsible for patrolling nearly 300 miles along the U.S. - Canadian border in New Hampshire, Vermont, and part of New York. So far this year, officials say they've confiscated more than three thousand pounds of pot and other drugs, plus large amounts of cash destined for dealers in Canada. "At this point, we're right under two million dollars for this fiscal year. I think we're number three in the nation {per capita}," said Deputy Chief Rosendo Hinojosa who is with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Since the terror attacks of 2001, patrol sectors across the country have been adding more agents. The Swanton sector is no exception. It has grown from 85 agents seven years ago, to just over 200 today. They credit the increasing number of foiled capers to their growing numbers, since there are more agents hitting the streets. But more busts mean agents are also seeing more violence.
"People have actively resisted arrest, or fought with agents, or tried to run them over with vehicles," remembered U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agent John Letourneau, as he patrolled the back roads.
Agents here have seen an increase in violence from four incidents last year to ten this year, including three recent shootings between officers and smugglers. Authorities think that's the result of better policing.
"The criminal element is getting a little more desperate, and resorting to more aggressive actions toward us. And that's something agents have to be aware of and deal with on a daily basis," explained Letourneau.
Authorities report that they prepare agents for the risk of violence by giving them the proper training and tools to deal with the problem. The agency has also been increasing it's armory of technological tools by upgrading camera systems and night sensors to aid them in their fight. But in the end, all they can do is place their trust in their officers.
"I hope that when they they're on duty, that the first thing they think about is making it back safe. I've got trust in them that they're going to take the necessary measures to protect themselves and the community," said Deputy Chief Hinojosa.
This recent border crackdown is actually part of a nationwide trend. And with Southern borders getting tight, agents along the U.S. - Canadian border are preparing for an influx of smugglers, as criminals look for an easier way into the country.
In Swanton, authorities say they plan to continue adding to their numbers. They're hoping to have 240 agents on board by September.
Rachael Morrow - WCAX News

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