US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists working in mail and express consignment facilities within the Chicago Field Office’s (CFO) area of responsibility continue to focus their attention on border security. Counterterrorism, countering trans-national organized crime, and protecting U.S. agriculture all fall under the umbrella of CBP officers’ and agriculture specialists’ border security mission. Fulfilling CBP’s trade enforcement mission CBPOs find fake knock-offs are abundant. The counterfeit identification cards and passports CBPOs intercept are plentiful – and all of this is shipped through the mail and express consignment hubs. However, the most dangerous item CBP officers see are narcotics.
In fiscal year 2018, the CFO intercepted more than 24,000 packages of narcotics, weighing more than 30,000 pounds in mail and express consignment. The number of packages seized by CBP officers in CFO is the highest of any location in the U.S.
Chicago’s Field Office, which encompasses twelve states (Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Pennsylvania), is the largest geographical field office in CBP.
O’Hare’s International Mail Branch processes 20 percent of the international mail coming into the United States. There is a UPS facility in Louisville, Kentucky, a DHL in Cincinnati, Ohio and a Federal Express facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. These three major Express Consignment Operation (ECO) hubs process 40 percent of the total U.S. international Express Consignment entry volume.
CFO’s increase in seizure activity is directly related to a number of factors, including: increased volume from high risk areas, heightened enforcement posture by the officers and the employment of multiple layers of enforcement tools. “CBP uses advanced electronic data, x-ray screening, canine resources, and rapid onsite identification of unknown substances,” Robert White, Director, Field Operations (DFO) – Chicago, said. The DFO also pointed out that another resource CBP uses is the experience of their officers. “Our officers are highly skilled at identifying packages that represent a higher level of risk through visual examination, based on their knowledge and awareness of ever-changing trends employed by the individuals and organizations seeking to illegally import contraband.”
In Fiscal year 2017, CFO seized more than 14,000 shipments of narcotics. This year that total is up 58 percent. Director White believes contraband seizures will continue to increase in not only the express consignment operations (ECOs), but also in other modes of transportation due to the increase of e-Commerce shipments. “The world of trade is changing, shipments of de-minimus, those less than $800, are increasing dramatically. CBP will continue to execute seizures of narcotics from these shipments. I am proud of the work being done by all of our employees. Their dedication to CBP’s mission – to safeguard America’s borders by protecting the public from dangerous people and materials- is the reason the Chicago Field Office has been and continues to be successful.”
From spools concealing cocaine to steroids shipped in lotion bottles, CBP has found it all this year. CBP’s mission of protecting the public from dangerous people and materials extends to the mail facilities processing international shipments, not just the physical borders.