Protecting the Northern Border: Land, Sea & Sky

Securing the borders to prevent drugs, illegals and terrorists from flowing into the US is one of the biggest challenges facing the United States today. You know it’s a topic that has dominated the presidential race. However, the focus has been mostly on the Southern border and a debate about building a wall. We wanted to find out what’s being done to protect our Northern border.

That job belongs to US Customs and Border Protection.

There are three uniformed components—Air and Marine, Border Patrol and Field Operations.

We’re focusing on these operations in what’s called the Swanton Sector. This sector covers parts of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire’s borders with Canada. 295 miles of border length—92 of them are water. And this entire area is covered by just 300 agents.

“It does seem like a lot of space for 300 guys but through technology, through intelligence gathering, and stuff like that, we can leverage the manpower we have,” says Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.

We let them show you how they cover all that ground—on land, at sea and up in the air.

“Our primary job is to protect and serve the American people. We’re like that first line of defense”– Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.

“We operate in the shadows. That’s where we’re most comfortable.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.

“Up here the border is a slash and a bunch of boundary markers.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.

“We’re on the slash right now. This zone right here is called the International Boundary Commission Zone. It’s ten feet from the line to the North and 10 feet to the South.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.

“I’ll pan out so you can see what we’re up against here. The landscape, geography, the foliage—all these things come into play, It’s very inhospitable terrain. It provides unique challenges—especially to the agents on the ground, so when we’re flying above it, we can see a lot more. We can cover a lot more area.” – Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.

“It’s very rough driving. It’s rocky, and there’s a lot of bogs, beaver dams, so it’s almost impassable.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.

“You don’t know who it is, you don’t know who is crossing.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.

“Smuggling—human trafficking, drug smuggling, weapons of mass destruction—it could be anything.” – Gerhardt Perry, Air Interdiction Agent, CBP Air and Marine Operations.

“… but we have to do our best to catch everyone because we can’t determine with technology we can’t look at the picture and say, we can’t say terrorist, drug dealer, prior deport. We can’t say that until we actually interdict that event, stop it from happening and go back and research and determine who we have.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.

“We’ve got to be right, 100 percent, right? We only get that one chance that one opportunity.” – Kevin Packwood, Professionalism Service Manager, Port of Champlain.

“Up here we use our intelligence, we use our technology, and our experienced manpower to do our jobs.” – Brad Brant, Special Operations Supervisor, Swanton Patrol Sector.

“With the presidential candidate about the wall—I’m the wall. That’s how I feel. I’m the wall.” – Dave Lacey, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.

“We look at patterns, trends. We look at information that we’re getting from the agents that are actually out in the field, our sensor crews, and our ATV crews. We take all of that information and with the technology that we have at hand, we build virtual fencing.” – Norman Lague, Patrol Agent in Charge, Swanton Sector.
During our tour—that virtual fencing is put to the test. A call from the Port of Entry about a possible illegal border crossing.

RADIO CALL: “Have you encountered any females? They have a vehicle there with luggage and clothing for a female but no females in the car.”

That female didn’t set off any Border Protection sensors and surveillance systems, but the driver of the car in question finally confesses to helping an 18-year-old from Mexico cross the border…

“We’re looking at a smuggling event right now. Whether it’s organized or not, not sure at this time… We suspect there’s a female somewhere in the woods right now,” says Lague.

Now it’s up to Border Patrol agents to find her. Fortunately, a tip from a border town homeowner leads agents to the right doorstep.

“It’s not an uncommon story,” says Lague. He adds, “This whole stretch that I’m going through at different points has been used for alien smuggling.”

There’s another critical stretch of boundary, agents watch closely—Lake Champlain. Why? Anyone who sails through, can connect to the Hudson River and make it down to New York City—and beyond.
“Did you know the ICW then goes from New York City all the way down around Florida to Brownville Texas? And that’s unchecked [by U.S. Customs and Border Protection]. So with that thought in mind, this is the only checkpoint for boats coming into this part of the country,” says Norman Stetson, Border Patrol Agent, Swanton Sector.

The agents who protect our border region from drug traffickers and human smugglers admit their job is extremely challenging and dangerous, but their passion and dedication to protecting our country are boundless.

“They’re relentless. They want to get their product, whether it be human or drugs, they want to get their product across, our job is to stop them,” says Lacey.

Here are some statistics to give you an idea of how much they stop at the border.In the 2015 fiscal year, 2,626 illegal aliens were apprehended across the Northern border. 341 of them in the Swanton Sector. That’s almost one per day.

graphic-for-web-2626

US Customs and Border Protection can’t say how many got through, but if those people were caught by their cameras, agents are looking for them.

Protecting the Northern Border: Field Operations, Port of Champlain

Securing the borders to prevent drugs, illegals and terrorists from flowing into the US is one of the biggest challenges facing the United States today. You know it’s a topic that has dominated the presidential race. However, the focus has been mostly on the Southern border. We wanted to find out what’s being done to protect our Northern border.

That job belongs to US Customs and Border Protection. There are three uniformed components—Air and Marine, Border Patrol and Field Operations.

We’re focusing on these operations in what’s called the Swanton Sector—that includes New Hampshire, Vermont and part of New York.

Tonight at 10, we’ll talk about drug traffickers and alien smugglers who cross the border. But those aren’t the only threats to our health, our safety and our economy.

On average, 700 container trucks pass through Port of Champlain every day.

Officers in the 9 booths at the primary arrival area for commercial vehicles have the daunting task of making sure NOTHING rolls through that could threaten our region and our nation.

“We’re it. We’re the line,” Kevin Packwood, Professionalism Service Manager, Port of Champlain.

Acting Area Port Director Don Yando adds, “What is in the truck? Where is it coming from? Where is it going? Who’s driving the truck?”

If the information doesn’t add up…

“This is a controlled area, so the driver has no choice but to pull over into the garage area, go inside and speak with an officer in there,” says Yando. “From there, the truck could be offloaded and examined further.”

Yando then shares some examples of what people have tried to drive through the border: “We find drugs, we find weapons. We find merchandise that is not manifested, so the importer is trying to fool us because they don’t want to pay that high duty.”

Yando says eight percent of the container trucks—that’s about one out of every 12—will contain a food or product not allowed in the United States.

“These are goods that cannot come into the United States because another government agency has set standards and we’re making sure that those standards are met for these products. In this case, they’re not, so we’re seizing them,” says Yando.

CELINE: “So at the end of the day it’s about safety.” YANDO: “Safety, protecting the American public from harmful products.”

Products deemed harmful by agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, including children’s clothing with buttons that contain too much lead, and counterfeit goods.

“It’s not uncommon for us to see shipments of extension cords or Christmas lights with a counterfeit UL label on them,” says Yando. “So that means the wires are of substandard quality. So if you have those Christmas tree lights and they have a counterfeit UL label on them, you plug them in at your Christmas tree at home, your whole house could go up in flames.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses import specialists to identify these products as well as unwanted pests and pathogens.

“We inspect fruits and vegetable commodities like grain, corn, bulk commodities like that,” says Agricultural Specialist Jason Langlois. He adds, “We also look at lumber for pests.”

Langlois shows us some examples of goods that have been pulled from trucks:

“You can see in some of these, see the holes? Right there. And you can see where they’ve been boring in here. That is a big deal. We have Asian Long-Horned Beetle. What they do is they attack the trees.”

“Some of the citrus fruit would have diseases on them that we don’t want to get down into Florida or California. They would pretty much decimate the crop down there, where we wouldn’t be able to export any fruit to other countries.”

CELINE: “Is it hard to keep up with the latest kinds of pests, the latest diseases, everything that you need to be looking out for? It seems like this would be a very fluid list. LANGLOIS: “It does. It changes almost on a daily basis.”

“We’ve got to be right 100 percent of the time, right? We only get that one chance,” says Packwood. “You’ve got to be on your game every day here. You have to, you don’t have a choice.”

Those officers focus on what’s coming through the actual ports of entry. Tonight at 10—we introduce you to the agents who patrol the areas in between. It’s a story you don’t want to miss.

9/11 Memorial Stair Climb: 110 flights, countless stories

A huge turnout today at the 6th annual New Hampshire 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in Downtown Manchester. More than 400 people—including firefighters from across the region—are climbing the stairs of the Brady Sullivan Tower five and half times. It represents the 11 stories of the Twin Towers in NYC where 343 firefighters died.

For 23-year-old firefighters Travis Gray and Colton Peledieu, this is their 1st Memorial climb.

“I’m very nervous for this. I’m not really sure what to expect. 110 floors is a lot,” says Gray.

While they were only in 4th grade at the time of the attacks, both say it inspired them to become firefighters.

“Seeing all those firefighters rush in selflessly saving everybody, I knew at a very young age that it was something I wanted to do,” says Peledieu.

In honor of those who died, they’re taking on this grueling challenge in full gear.

“I think it would let my brothers and sisters down if I didn’t wear full gear,” says Travis.

“This is how they did it that day, this is how we’re going to do it today,” says Peledieu.

Rocco Caprarello, Station Manager for AMR in Manchester is ready and waiting for anyone who needs help.

“It’s humid today, I mean it’s cool but the humidity is high, so they’re going to be working.”

Two candidates in Tuesday’s Primary tells us why they also took part.

“I’ve done it every year to remember our first responders,” says Senator Kelly Ayotte. She adds, “We lost 343 firefighters on 9/11 and almost 3 thousand Americans, and so to remember what they did on our behalf, to never forget their service and sacrifice, and to know that on 9/11 they attacked us, but we came together as a nation, and our first responders represent the very best of us.”

“It’s still a dangerous world and we could still be called upon to sacrifice and that’s why remembering is so important,” says Rich Ashooh, 1st Congressional District GOP Candidate.

If or when that day comes, firefighters Gray and Peledieu will be ready.

“It was a lot of work, it was a lot of fun,” says Gray.  Peledieu adds,” It’s very similar to being on a fire scene. You kind of have to keep your head down, and just go for it. Keep going no matter how bad it hurts, how much you’re sweating, how tired you are—you’ve got to keep going because they did.”

As of early Sunday morning, $25,000 dollars has been raised for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation—twice as much as last year. Click here to  learn more about the foundation.

Special Report: Addiction Front Lines: K-9 Crime Fighters

“I drive around at night, and Phlirt, my little yellow lab, puts her paw on my shoulder all night,” says MacKenzie. “If I stop the car to go to a traffic stop, both dogs are up and watching. So, they’ve got my back. They love me, so I got to love them.”
“I drive around at night, and Phlirt, my little yellow lab, puts her paw on my shoulder all night,” says Officer Keith MacKenzie. “If I stop the car to go to a traffic stop, both dogs are up and watching. So, they’ve got my back. They love me, so I got to love them.”

“At home they’re our pets but when it’s time to go to work, I put my duty belt on and once I put my radio on, she jumps out of that recliner does a stretch. She comes over, jumps up, I put her collar on her head and we go to work.” – Patrol Sgt. Adam Shaw, Wells PD, Maine

Man’s best friend is one of law enforcement’s greatest assets in battling the drug epidemic in New Hampshire.  Our NH1 News Special Investigative Series: Addiction Front Lines continues tonight, with a spotlight on K-9 Crime Fighters.

For thirteen years, Officer Keith Mackenzie of the Rochester Police Department has patrolled the streets as part of the K-9 unit. He says fighting on the front lines of the drug epidemic keeps them extremely busy.

“We’re a lot more active these days, unfortunately,” says MacKenzie.

Fortunately, MacKenzie’s two partners—Daisy Mae and Phlirt—literally have the nose for detecting drugs, dealers and users don’t want them to find.

“They try taco seasoning, fabric sheets, coffee grinds, gasoline—it’s all the stuff they try hiding drugs in, but the dogs smell seven odors at a time,” says MacKenzie. He adds, “That’s why the dog’s nose is so valuable. We smell one odor. So, if I stuck my nose in taco seasoning. I would only smell taco seasoning. I wouldn’t smell the weed or heroin. The dogs process those odors.”

As the head narcotics trainer with the Working Dog Foundation, Mackenzie helps turn that natural talent into a crime-fighting tool for law enforcement agencies across the region.

“They come every Monday and we put thousands of hours in our dogs,” says MacKenzie.

“With the dogs, it’s a totally different game,” says Sgt. Shaw, who travels from Maine to New Hampshire every Monday to train with his dog Proxy.

Basically, the game is hide-and-go-seek. First, the dogs learn to detect the scent of hard drugs—including meth, cocaine and heroin.

Officers take the drugs—on loan from the DEA lab in Washington DC—tuck them into these chew-proof “narc-safe” pouches, and hide them in the types of places they’d be called in to search. When the dogs find them, they’re rewarded with fun time, which usually involves a ball or a squeaky toy.

“As she’s running back, she’s relating that odor to fun,” says Shaw.

“We keep it fun for the dogs,” says MacKenzie. He adds, “As soon as it stops being fun for the dogs, then they’re not going to do their jobs very well.”

“We look like fools as far as that goes,” says Shaw. “We can at times look like fools, as we’re rewarding the dog.”

It’s a process that builds strong skills and potentially life-saving partnerships these officers rely on every day they’re on the job.

“The dogs have helped me out several times – twice which I can think of,” says MacKenzie.

“I drive around at night, and Phlirt, my little yellow lab, puts her paw on my shoulder all night,” says MacKenzie. “If I stop the car to go to a traffic stop, both dogs are up and watching. So, they’ve got my back. They love me, so I got to love them.”

These dogs are also used in searches. In fact, Officer Mackenzie and Daisy Mae were called in on a manhunt in Northern Maine to find an armed murder suspect. They found him in about 90 minutes. That just happens to be one of the reasons Mackenzie was named New Hampshire’s Officer of the Year in 2015.

So far, the Working Dog Foundation has trained more than 200 police K-9s. Right now, 17 teams are training with the organization from law enforcement agencies in New Hampshire and Maine.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll share some great behind-the-scenes videos of these officers and their amazing dogs.

UPDATE: Cell Phone Protection?

cell phone image“Even if you have doubts, don’t buy them because you don’t know what’s inside.” Jillian Guillemette, Manchester

If you’re just reading about this for the first time, Jillian reached out to us because she was burned by the liquid inside this cell phone case when it cracked.

edited pic of Jillian

She bought this sparkly case at the Cellairis kiosk in the Mall of New Hampshire.  After she got burned, she went back to the kiosk because she wanted to find out what’s inside the case. It came without any packaging, so she had no details about the chemical composition of the liquid and couldn’t tell if there were any product warnings on the packaging.

Cellairis counter with logoSince our first story aired, a second viewer came forward, saying she was also burned by the liquid in these cases.

new person burned by cell phoneConcord Attorney Jim Steiner says that lack of critical information poses serious threats to your safety and may violate consumer protection laws.

“There’s just no information that would give a warning to somebody, guidance to a purchaser or any kind of instruction about any potential harm,” says Steiner. He adds, “If someone fell asleep with their cell phone next to them—as so many children do—and the device broke because they rolled on it, and they didn’t realize until the chemical burns had become second or third degree burns, this could be a serious injury.”

I bought the same cell phone case from that kiosk and they wouldn’t give me the packaging either, claiming they don’t fit into the display when in the box. I reached out to Cellairis—and one week later—I received this statement.

cellairis statement 1

cellairis statement 2

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Cellairis is a customer-focused company and we take all product related incidents very seriously. The Mall of New Hampshire location is a franchised location and owned independently. Our initial research confirms that the product purchased was not a Cellairis manufactured product, although it was purchased at a Cellairis location. We are committed to conducting a full investigation to resolve this issue.”

Cellairis turned down our request for an interview.  In an email, its marketing manager claims that a letter has been crafted for its franchises asking them to remove this type of product from their shelves.  We have not been provided a copy of that letter or a timeline of its release and ultimate removal of the liquid cases.

In the meantime, we are sending the case to a lab for analysis.

If you’ve been burned by one of these cases, please send me an email at cmcarthur@nh1.com.

Special Investigation: Young and Homeless in Manchester

“There are so many angry people, it’s just brutal. There are homeless people fighting homeless people for five dollars. There are people getting robbed. My friends are dying from ODs.” Cody Ferry, 21, Homeless in Manchester

Cody Ferry paints a frightening picture of life on the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire. What you may not know, is that the homeless problem in the Queen City isn’t limited to grownups. Child and Family Services of New Hampshire estimates that there are 300 homeless youth on the streets every night.

Kianni Hunt is a vibrant and ambitious young woman.

(Laughing) “I try!”

This 21-year-old is a student at Manchester Community College and is a proud mother of twin 14-month-old boys.

“Malachi and Gabriel. They’re my world, they’re my life,” says Kianni.

Kianni works two jobs to support them.

“I work at Red Robbin as a server and I bartend at Spare Time,” says Kianni.

Despite her hectic schedule, she also manages to volunteers at Child and Family Services of New Hampshire’s Youth Resource Center. The reason? The center served as her refuge when she was homeless in high school.

“My mother had a lot of mental illness problems and eventually she kicked us out,” says Kianni. “I decided that I’d be better off being somewhere else, being homeless versus living there.”

“The biggest fear for me as a young girl was, oh my God if I sleep on the streets tonight, you know, I would make sure I had some sort of knife or something on me. I’m not trying to sound crazy or anything, but because I am afraid of getting raped or kidnapped,” says Kianni.

Fortunately, she survived unharmed.

“I always ended up sleeping somewhere. Just because of, my friends, or whoever I knew, which was a blessing. I didn’t have to go through that,”

Program Director Carol Heald from Youth Resource Center shares an eye-opening statistic: “We have averaged that about 300 youth are homeless every night in Manchester.”

Driving through the city, chances are you won’t easily spot many – or any—young homeless people camping out.

“I think you know there were years when I didn’t see any driving through Manchester. You only see what you’re looking for,” says Heald.

That’s in part why the Youth Resource Center deploys a street outreach team – a group of volunteers who walk the city, searching for young people who may need help.

“Seeing these youth in the element and being able to be there for them when they feel like nobody else is,” says Brennan Connors, Street Outreach Team. She adds, “That can be directly on the streets, under the bridges, on the train tracks.”

“I’ve been homeless off and on for the last four years. It’s brutal,” says Cody.

Right now Cody says he’s couch-hopping, so he doesn’t have to sleep on the streets. CFS says it’s a common strategy for the young and homeless, but not an effective long-term solution.

Kianna and CFS both agree that Manchester needs an overnight shelter exclusively for young people. CFS serves 1,500 young people every year. There are some resources, including a group home and a series of host homes, but they’re limited and temporary.

This is just the beginning of the story. We are committed to investigating the youth homeless problem in Manchester and what can be done to help the invisible children of Manchester.

First-in-the-Nation Primary: On the streets with Tony V.

Getting bombarded by television news reporters for interviews can be stressful. If it’s happened to you, you know the feeling.  On our First-in-the-Nation Primary Day, I recruited my secret weapon, Comedian and Actor Tony V., to get people talking about the election.  Everyone we talked to ended up laughing and leaving with NH1 News on their minds.  It’s television gold you won’t see anywhere else.

Experience the Magic of the First-in-the-Nation Primary

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire: A small mountain town just south of the Canadian border. It has the longest continuous record of midnight voting. They’ve been keeping the tradition alive since 1960. Tonight, nine voters will cast their ballots. That’s 100% voter turnout. Four are registered Republican, 4 are Independent and 1 is a democrat. Take a look at this video to see where the First-in-the-Nation magic begins!

Some of our late news coverage:

Here’s a clip from our live coverage at midnight!

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A few of my favorite political stories.

I’m getting ready for a pretty intense 48 hours of television news reporting, running around the state covering the First-in-the-Nation primary. Sometimes, political coverage can be a bit… predictable. Here are three stories I produced with my A team colleague, Chief Photographer Freddy Wheeler, that prove you can educate, engage and entertain the viewer.

First Date with John Kasich

Hillary Clinton makes kids cry at NH Boys & Girls Club

The Clinton Machine: Meet the Volunteers

 

 

Hackable Barbie

CONCORD – A warning for parents’ holiday shopping for their kids: Tech experts are calling out one of Mattel’s Barbie dolls – Hello Barbie – for posing a serious safety risk to children.

“Hey, you’re here. How are you? Well, I missed you. I just love laughing and talking with you.”

Those are just a few of the 8,000 lines Hello Barbie delivers to get your kids talking. But parents beware. Some tech experts say Hello Barbie – Mattel’s latest interactive doll – is insecure and NOT always discreet with your kid’s conversations.IMG_9268“It’s a Barbie that’ll talk to you, talk to the kids, talk to your sister,” Craig Peterson, a technology consultant, said. “It has thousands of different phrases that it can say. So, it’s listening to you, it’s using artificial intelligence to determine what it’s going to say back to you.”

It works like this: Hello Barbie connects to your wireless network and sends all spoken words it picks up to the cloud.

Craig Peterson:“  “What’s happening is the encryption that’s going on, that little communication back to the server is flawed,” Peterson said. “The people that wrote this put a single password – the same password – into every Barbie. So, once you’ve hacked that password on the Barbie, you are now able to get to a network that has a Barbie on it.”

So, what information can hackers really collect?

Hello Barbie: “What’s you’re middle name?”

Craig Peterson: “Ultimately, they can now take over someone’s life, and the best life to take over is a young kid because it’ll be 15 to 20 years before they apply for credit cards, before they apply for a job, before anyone notices that their whole life has been taken over,” Peterson said.

Hello Barbie: “Can’t wait to talk to you later!”

Vicki Ridings was shopping for her two boys, when we showed her Hello Barbie.

Her response? “It’s Barbie for God’s sake! I mean, c’mon!” She said. “I think it’s scary. I think it’s really scary. Our kids are vulnerable. You wouldn’t even think that. Most parents would not think of that. They see a Barbie, they don’t see the hidden dangers, so that’s frightening.”

Another mother in last-minute shopping mode, Katie Langevin, was more than just a little concerned.

Celine McArthur: “If your niece had this in the house, and was playing with it, people could listen to all of your conversations.”

Langevin: “That is very creepy.”

Hello Barbie isn’t the only toy with security concerns thanks their internet connections.

Hackers stole account information of millions of kids who used the Learning Lodge app store for VTech toys last month.

“This kind of information, up in the cloud, not a good idea,” Peterson said.

Grandmother Jeanie Duso hopes her grandkids won’t have Hello Barbie under their Christmas tree.

She says she’s going to share this news with her entire family.

“I sure will,” she said. “I’m just hoping they haven’t bought anything for Christmas for them.”

Hello Barbie: “Can’t wait to talk to you later!”

Mattel and the software maker ToyTalk are racing to patch the security problems. But that’s not expected to happen before the holidays.

In the meantime, hackers can get all kinds of information.

First, from the app you have to download and register with to get Barbie talking.

And once she does? Well, I downloaded the latest list of the 8,000 phrases Barbie will say to prompt a dialogue.

She’s probing – asking middle names, details about school, siblings, parents, friends, hobbies, favorite toys, favorite foods, dreams, what kids are doing *today* details on upcoming vacations and religious holidays.

Among those 8,000 Barbie responses is this one: “I promise, I won’t tell anyone.”

Once the doll is secured, keep in mind, Mattel still has all that information on your family.

“The pedophiles are obviously a real concern, but a bigger concern are the hackers who will sell that little girl’s life basically – all of her credit life -for as little as 5 dollars each,” Peterson said.

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