Border Enforcement Security Task Force Issues Report
by Jim Kouri
(The following is based on a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.)
The Department of Homeland Security recently released their 2008 report on the results of their BEST program, which is part of the United States' border security program.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is charged with enforcing a wide array of laws, including those related to securing the border and combating criminal smuggling.
Our nation's Southern border has experienced a dramatic surge in cross-border crime and violence in recent years due to intense competition between Mexican drug cartels and criminal smuggling organizations that employ predatory tactics to realize their profits.
In response to this trend, ICE has partnered with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement counterparts to create the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) initiative, a series of multi-agency task forces developed as a comprehensive approach to identifying, disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security. The task forces are designed to increase information sharing and collaboration among the agencies combating this threat on both sides of the border.
BEST incorporates personnel from ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Coast Guard; and the U.S. Attorney's Office along with other key federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies. Participating in BEST on the Southwest border is the Mexican law enforcement agency Secretaria de Seguridad Publica. Canadian Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police participate in BEST along the Northern border.
There are currently 11 BESTs in place throughout the United States, located in Laredo, Texas; El Paso, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; Rio Grande Valley, Texas; Blaine, Wash.; Buffalo, NY; Yuma, Ariz.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Tucson, Ariz.; Imperial Valley, Calif.; and Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.; and additional BESTs are being implemented in Miami, Fl; and Newark/New York.
The United States, Mexico and Canada work jointly under the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) for North America. BEST is one of several working groups that was established or expanded to implement the SPP. The participating agencies aid with the collection and analysis of intelligence and coordinate and collaborate on investigative efforts to identify and dismantle smuggling organizations. BEST has been highly successful in combating violence in the Laredo area, which served as an impetus for the expansion of the program.
Results of BEST This coordinated approach has led to significant successes:
* In FY 2008, the BESTs were responsible for 989 criminal arrests, 1,235 administrative arrests, 352 indictments, and 332 convictions, and have seized 1,616 pounds of cocaine, 55,690 pounds of marijuana, 120 pounds of methamphetamine, 5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 850 pounds of ecstasy, 59 pounds of heroin, 46 pounds of hashish, 20 pounds of opium, 418 weapons, 1 grenade, 269 vehicles, 4 boats, 6 properties and approximately $8.8 million in U.S. currency and monetary instruments.
* The BEST initiative has substantially enhanced partnerships between U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies along the border. In Texas, the heightened cooperation with Mexican law enforcement resulted in the successful return of criminal fugitives being sought in both countries, including the removal to Mexico of one of that nation's Top Ten Most Wanted fugitives after his arrest in El Paso in 2007.
* Border-related arms and ammunition smuggling investigations in Texas and Arizona have led to numerous criminal arrests and the seizure of thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple firearms, including a cache of AK-47 assault rifles destined for Mexico. ICE will continue to establish new BESTs in areas where transnational criminal organizations exploit vulnerabilities along the nation's border. These new task forces will focus on all aspects of the enforcement process, from interdiction to prosecution and removal.
The goal of the expansion is to strengthen the program's ability to dismantle the leadership and supporting infrastructure of the criminal organizations responsible for perpetrating violence and illegal activity along our borders and in the nation's interior.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.