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U.S.-Canada border security strategy may boost organized crime: report

A joint U.S.-Canada strategy designed to create a North American perimeter and improve border security may turn out to be a boost to organized crime, according to a study by two Queen’s University researchers.

“As law enforcement agencies shift their attention beyond the North American perimeter, there is potential to pay less attention to those travelling within it, thereby easing the movement of organized criminals and illicit goods within North America,” write study authors Christian Leuprecht and Todd Hataley, who work in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies and at the Royal Military College of Canada.

In 2011, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched a strategy for a new era of cooperation called Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. It envisaged a layered approach to border security, with the two nations working jointly to shift border functions away from the border itself to points inland.

A perimeter agreement between the United States and Canada defines an established security perimeter around the continent. Its premise is to push the perimeter out by means of pre-clearance for customs, reducing the need for enforcement at actual ports of entry.

Most of the individuals involved in transnational organized crime between Canada and the U.S. already live within the perimeter and run less of a risk of being screened out, the authors say, as organized criminals attempt to appear legitimate.

“Fitting neatly into a trusted-shipper program, either by appearing as a legitimate trader or by using corrupt officials, or both, could give them the same expedited border passage afforded to legitimate businesses,” write Drs. Leuprecht and Hataley.

The study, Organized Crime: Beyond the Border, has been released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.