Pubdate: Mon, 27 May 2002
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (NH)
Copyright: 2002 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Wilson Ring, Associated Press


BERKSHIRE, Vt. -- From a farm field about 10 feet from the Canadian border, 
State Police Sgt. Tom Hango looks through an apple orchard at cars on a 
back road in Quebec.

The rolling farmland separated into two countries by a slash in the trees 
is called "apple alley" by drug smugglers.

Since Sept. 11, Hango and other Vermont troopers have been making a habit 
of driving there, especially at night, looking for anything out of place. 
Hango is not deterred by the huge odds against finding anything.

"We'll do what we can to protect our state and our country," he said.

Hango is one of countless state, provincial and local law enforcement 
officials on both sides of the U.S-Canadian border who have been paying 
closer attention since the terrorist attacks.

No terrorist-or terrorism-related arrests have been announced, but there 
have been other payoffs. The number of illegal border crossings is down 
sharply, and drug seizures and arrests are way up.

 From October to April, the number of illegal border-crossers dropped 34 
percent compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. 
Immigration and Naturalization Service. The agency says the drop occurred 
on both the Canadian and Mexican borders.

Heightened vigilance is believed to be at least partly responsible.

"There is definitely an increased, visible presence on the border," said 
immigration spokeswoman Amy Otten. "That word gets out among the people who 
might try to get through illegally. But we really don't know because we 
aren't talking to people who aren't coming."

Smugglers undoubtedly drew lessons from the case of Lucia Garofalo, a 
Montreal resident arrested at Beecher Falls in December 1999. Authorities 
originally suspected her of playing a role in a foiled plot to blow up the 
Los Angeles airport as 2000 dawned, but changed their minds and released 
her in spring 2002.

Officials believe increased vigilance also helps explain the surge in drug 
arrests on the border, but, again, no one can say for sure. Between October 
and March, agents in the U.S. Border Patrol's Massenna, N.Y., office made 
37 drug arrests, seized $4.7 million worth of marijuana, $462,000 in cash, 
13 boats and 16 vehicles, said Dick Ashlaw, the agent in charge.

During the same period a year earlier, the Massena office had two drug 

"The bottom has dropped out of alien smuggling," Ashlaw said. "People are 
just afraid to move aliens across the border."

Though Sept. 11 obviously made smuggling aliens riskier, Ashlaw said there 
always have been reasons to prefer drugs.

"I can make 10 times as much money in half the time," he said. Besides, he 
said, "A hockey bag full of marijuana can't testify against you in court 
and you can't get charged with manslaughter for tossing it overboard."

No one knows how long the changes will last.

"We are watching to see if the trend continues, is it permanent?" Otten 
said of the drop in alien smuggling.

"It's still too early to say."
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