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Miramar Marine, Partner Find Drugs at Texas Border Crossing
By Sgt. Troy M. Ruby
MCAS Miramar

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(10/13/2000) — Miramar's Provost Marshals Office supported the war on drugs through the diligent effort of one Marine and his dog. They recently completed a temporary duty assignment to support the Customs Service agency along the United States border.

Lance Corporal poses next to some marijuana
Lance Cpl. William Abbott poses with his partner Paco, next to 416 pounds of marijuana. They found these drugs hidden in the trunk of a car at the El Paso border crossing.
( Photo by: Sgt. Troy M. Ruby)

Lance Corporal shows drugs found in tire of car
Lance Cpl. William Abbott, military police officer, shows some of the drugs he and his drug dog, Paco found in the tire of a car.
( Photo by: courtesy of Lance Cpl. William Abbott)

Lance Cpl. William Abbott and his partner Paco, a military working dog, made drug seizures totaling over 3,100 pounds of marijuana when they were temporarily assigned to the El Paso, Texas, international border, as part of a support program with the USCS. While there, they worked side by side with Customs officers, doing vehicle inspections and making seizures.

"The seizures came in spurts. One day, we made three in one day and there were times when I would go a week without one," said Abbott. "It averaged out to be about every other day that we would make a seizure. We had one bust in particular where we apprehended 416 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of a car."

Abbott isn't the first Marine to assist in patrolling the borders.

"Several times a year, U.S. Customs solicits military support on their border crossings," said Sgt. William Pine, Miramar kennel master. "They have so many cars (crossing) every day that they just can't handle the load by themselves, so they need extra help from the military."

This request is sent military-wide and several dog teams from each of the branches of the military go for about three months to support them. The duty takes the teams to the international borders in California, Texas, Mexico and Arizona.

This additional duty provides a good training opportunity that these Marines couldn't get anywhere else.

"Having Abbott and Paco working the border was great training for both of them. They were able to do drug seizures where the drugs were hidden in tires, secret compartments, gas tanks, seizures that we might not get to see on base," continued Pine. "Now Abbott will be holding classes for the rest of the dog handlers. He will be able to use his experiences in Texas to show us different hiding places and searching techniques that will makes us all more effective at our jobs."

Abbott learned these skills while doing his routine job guarding the border. A typical day found every vehicle going through a checkpoint where an inspector asks them various questions about their time in Mexico; why they were there, what they did while they were there, and other questions. During the questioning, the driver is being evaluated to see if he is excessively nervous, which could indicate that he is attempting to transport illegal drugs over the border.

Each station also has a computer that runs the vehicles license plate number through a program that brings up the history of that vehicle.

"We had a guy who tried to bring a truck across the border that we found out, through the computer, that the driver was involved in a shooting with a narcotics agent. During the altercation, the driver had stepped out of the truck and gunned down the agent with an AK-47. He was arrested right away and it was all because of the computer," said Abbott. After the initial discussion with the driver, the inspector has the option of either letting the car pass or referring it for closer inspection, said Abbott.

"We searched random vehicles that were referred in for various reasons. If they want K-9 to run the car, we run it and do a very through inspection that will hopefully yield results," said Abbott.

The hiding places are as numerous as the locations in a car, said Abbott. Inside tires, quarter panels, ceilings, gas tanks, false glove compartments, underneath false floorboards or inside the door panels.

"I personally had a pickup truck where they raised the bed and packed the whole bed. It never ceases to amaze me just where they put the drugs," said Abbott. "Sometimes they even try to tow a vehicle across the border claiming they are taking it to be fixed, but it is loaded with marijuana. They will stop at nothing to get the drugs into the United States."

In recognition of his and Paco's seizures in Texas, Abbott has been nominated for a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

"Abbott has done a great job since he got here in November 1999. His dog has actually had more drug busts than all the other dogs on base combined. We have five dogs and Paco alone has 14 busts. He has a great dog and they, as partners, have performed above and beyond expectations," said Pine. red ribbon icon

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