IS BORDER SECURITY AN INCONVENIENCE?
Believe it or not: Border Patrol checkpoints have been reduced because of complaints about "traffic congestion" and "quality of life issues." Yet, many of the same people who complained are calling for more action to be taken against the onslaught of illegal aliens.
The US Border Patrol, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, aims to apprehend persons who illegally enter the United States between official ports of entry, including potential terrorists, aliens, and contraband smugglers, thereby deterring or stopping illegal activity. The Patrol operates permanent and tactical (temporary) interior traffic checkpoints on major and secondary US roads, mainly in the Southwest border states where most illegal entries occur, as part of a multilayer strategy to maximize detection and apprehension of illegal entrants.
The Border Patrol operates 33 permanent traffic checkpoints in 8 of its 9 sectors in the Southwest border states, supported by tactical checkpoints. While permanent checkpoints have the advantage of physical infrastructure, tactical ones have the mobility to block routes used to evade permanent ones and to respond to intelligence on illegal activity.
A third type of checkpoint operates in the Tucson, Ariz. sector, where the Patrol has been legislatively prohibited from funding construction of checkpoints since fiscal year 1999. This restriction has prevented checkpoint construction. The Patrol also began closing or relocating checkpoints in the sector every 7 days at the instruction of congressional staff in June 2002, and was legislatively required to relocate checkpoints on the same schedule in FY 2003 and 2004, and an average of once every 14 days in FY 2005.
Three of six checkpoints in the sector had to close for 7 to 14 days, as safety considerations made it too hazardous to relocate them. Local law enforcement and business and community leaders interviewed from communities near interior traffic checkpoints said that benefits resulting from checkpoint operations included reductions in crime and vandalism. Although a few cited traffic delays, most were supportive of checkpoint operations.
However, some others were concerned about the impact of the checkpoints on traffic congestion and quality of life in their communities. The Border Patrol does not routinely evaluate the effectiveness of checkpoint operations, or their costs. The Patrol includes limited traditional performance measures in its Performance and Annual Report, such as apprehensions and contraband seized.
The Government Accounting Office developed an apprehension per agent work year measure to assess performance. The data suggest that the performance of the Tucson sector interior checkpoints dropped starting in FY 2002, and more in FY 2003, after the Border Patrol began relocating or closing them on a regular basis. Three other sectors the GAO visited that did not have to relocate or close checkpoints experienced no comparable decrease in apprehensions per agent work year during the same time period. In other words, closing checkpoints results in fewer apprehensions.
Other factors not measured or accounted for might also have contributed to these outcomes, but the Border Patrol's limited measures do not capture or assess them. A broader range of performance measures, when considered with other indicators, could be useful to Customs and Border Protection and the Congress as they consider ways to improve the effectiveness of interior traffic checkpoints and border security efforts.
� 2005 Jim Kouri- All
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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. 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.
E-Mail: [email protected]
The data suggest that the performance of the Tucson sector interior checkpoints dropped starting in FY 2002, and more in FY 2003, after the Border Patrol began relocating or closing them on a regular basis.