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Better Scanning Should Detect More Fentanyl Shipments Across Border

At the busiest commercial border crossing in North America, trucks stream into the U.S. at 500 per hour during peak times. Drug traffickers play the percentages. Fewer than five percent of the vehicles are typically screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection with powerful high-energy scanners that can peer deep inside cargo loads to detect “anomalies” — odd patterns or suspicious densities that could be illegal drugs. The inspections require drivers to leave their vehicles and wait. With fatal drug overdose deaths in the U.S. soaring to record levels, Congress has directed CBP to come up with a plan to scan 100 percent of arriving vehicles. Across the U.S. southern border, the agency is preparing to roll out new “nonintrusive” inspection systems to screen significantly more trucks, reports the Washington Post. “Multi-energy portals” will zap the cargo areas with high-energy waves, but use safer low-energy screening for the cab, allowing the drivers to remain in their vehicles and clear inspection faster. "It’s going to be a game changer for us,” said Alberto Flores, CBP director for the Laredo port of entry, who said each machine can scan eight times as many trucks per hour as the existing high-energy systems. Laredo is the front line in the U.S. government’s long effort to stop illegal drugs at the border. U.S. Interstate 35 runs from the city all the way to Duluth, Mn., up the middle of the nation. The Mexican trafficking organizations that hide narcotics in commercial loads use I-35 like many businesses. Once the drugs get past CBP in Laredo, their distribution routes are wide open. The entire contiguous U.S. is within a 1½-day drive. CBP’s Laredo field office seized 588 pounds of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl during the 2021 fiscal year, an eleven-fold increase over the 50 pounds detected in 2020.

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