Protecting America's northern border
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Security along the America’s southern border has been dominating the headlines. But, the only known terrorists to cross overland into the U.S. came from the north.
Spotlight on America traveled to Maine’s northernmost county bordered to the east, west and north by Canada to see how agents there are holding the line.
Much like potato farming, Border Patrol is a way of life in Aroostook County.
"We are the front line of defense of the border, said Dennis Harmon, Border Patrol Division Chief"
It can be a hassle for locals going back and forth, but others see it as a selling point. At the Aroostook Valley Country Club, golfers can tee it up and, as the website says, literally hit it out of the country.
The northern border is a lot quieter than its southern counterpart, but much bigger.
At 5,525 miles, the northern border is the largest land boundary in the world. 611 of those miles are shared by Maine.
Dennis Harmon is Division Chief of Houlton Sector, made up of six patrol stations in Maine -- and more than 200 agents.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data, apprehensions along the northern border were up 38 percent in the first six months of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017.
In the fall of 2018, five Guatemalans walked right over the border, which is not something agents had seen in this area before.
"Not a number that big, said Harmon. Five people. I'm pretty confident saying that was a first."
The International Border is marked by a break in the tree line, what agents call "the slash," as well as concrete markers. In some spots, we discovered, it's just a matter of crossing the street or even a farmer's field.Dennis Harmon says they're aware of the most vulnerable spots, but use technology to their advantage. Cameras and sensors are watching all the time. Some use infrared and ground vibrations to pick up activity.That technology allows agents to spend their time and energy elsewhere. One of the routine patrols is at the bus station, where agents routinely check passengers.
"Public conveyances are a preferred method for smuggling either people or contraband, Harmon said."On the front line, Harmon says his agents always need to stay one step ahead in order to secure the border and keep America safe. "It's forever changing, so you know, today, the mouse trap will catch that mouse, but we need to build a better mouse trap to catch the next breed of mouse that comes out there, Harmon said."
Illegal crossings into Maine spiked by 250 percent in the first half of 2018.