Canadian and U.S. law enforcement officers will team up in the waters around White Rock and South Surrey following the announcement of a cross-border initiative known as Shiprider.
Federal Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and U.S. officials were in White Rock Friday to officially announce the program, which will see Canadian and U.S. enforcement officers patrolling in both countries' waters in an effort to thwart smuggling and other offences often carried out on the west coast.
"Border operations have often been hindered by international boundaries," said Toews during the announcement. "The traditional jurisdictional challenges associated with cross-border policing have resulted in barriers to effective law enforcement. Organized criminal gangs are well aware of these limitations and they use that to their advantage...committing crimes in one country and fleeing into the other.
"To combat that, we are officially commencing Shiprider operations on a regular and ongoing basis."
Rear Admiral Taylor, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District for the U.S., was also on hand for the announcement.
"Integrated cross-border maritime operations give law enforcement agencies in both of our countries an additional set of tools to use when working together on the water to prevent the illegal transport of drugs, money and criminals that flow north and south of our border," said Taylor.
The Shiprider program will be operational at the Vancouver/Blaine waterways on the west coast, and at the Windsor/Detroit waters in the east.
According to Toews, the patrol ships taking part in the program will carry enforcement officers from both countries during patrol. When in Canadian waters, the boat will be under the command of a Canadian officer, and vice versa in the U.S.
"There will be full respect for domestic sovereignty of both Canada and United States," said Toews, noting in Canadian waters everything will be conducted under Canadian policies and procedures. "In the U.S., the reverse is true."
While the program has been operating in a test phase for the past six years, Toews' announcement makes the program an official and regular occurrence in local waters.
"This enables seamless continuity of law enforcement across the border and facilitates cross-border surveillance," said Toews. "It also represents a way of the future and a new approach of how we work with our American partners."
Currently there are two boats in the west coast edition of the Shiprider program, manned with crews of about four to five officers per ship.