SPECIAL STATUS FOR OFFICERS TO ENHANCE BORDER CRIME PATROLS
Under a new law-enforcement project, U.S. Coast Guard officers are being made Canadian peace officers in a 100-kilometre stretch of the St. Lawrence seaway and in part of British Columbia. Similar powers are being given to RCMP officers in U.S. waters.
Project Shiprider gives some members of the USCG special privileges to act as law enforcement officers here, but they will have to obey strict guidelines and will be under the authority of the RCMP while in Canada. A similar project took place in the Detroit-Windsor region in 2005.
The two forces are also partnering with several other agencies, including provincial police, the Canadian Forces, U.S. state police forces, and immigration and border patrol agencies to develop the capability to pursue criminals on the ground and in the air, RCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette said.
Cpl. Bessette said the goal was to try to thwart "organized crime in border areas on both sides of the seaway. We want to see how criminals will react and adapt ( to our strategy ) in consequence. We want to become pro-active."
Cpl. Bessette said giving a foreign police force powers in Canada wasn't unprecedented, as secret service agents are given those privileges when the U.S. president visits.
"During international gatherings that bring together foreign dignitaries here, certain countries request permission to bring in armed guards, and we give them this status of special or peace agent," he said. "They act under the authority of the RCMP, and they obtain the right to be armed in Canada, but in a very rigid context."
Project Shiprider brings together USCG and RCMP in integrated teams sharing boats over a number of summer months and it may be extended.
In these aquatic zones, criminals thinking they are out of the reach of a police force giving chase when they cross the border are in for a surprise.
Those areas covered include a region south of Vancouver and the St. Lawrence seaway from Valleyfield, Que., near Montreal, to Cardinal, west of Cornwall.
That area was chosen because of the difficult geography of the area as the border runs right through the middle of the St. Lawrence River.
"We've always had difficulty to intervene ( there ) because Canadian officers would lose their powers when they arrive in the U.S. and vice versa," Cpl. Bessette said.