Since the tragic events of 9/11, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Division of the Department of Homeland Security has been ramping up its efforts to protect the U.S. public from the intrusions of potential terrorists and the smuggling of contraband such as guns and weapons into the U.S. The state of Virginia has been at the forefront of these efforts, due to the state’s government and business infrastructure, along with its proximity to Washington, D.C.
Ports of Entry into Virginia
The state of Virginia spans over 39,000 square miles and has several ports of entry that employ U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents. They are located at:
- Front Royal
- New River Valley Airport
The New River Valley port of entry is part of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and was developed to facilitate the activities of those doing business outside of the U.S.
Efforts to Fight Terrorism in Virginia
The number one priority for those carrying out the jobs of Customs and Border Patrol agents is to prevent outbreaks of terrorism. Federal authorities have been proactive in assessing potential threats of terrorism in the state of Virginia. In 2009, at least 50 terrorist and extremist groups were found to be active in Virginia. Customs and Border Patrol agents closely monitor those who enter the state of Virginia from other locations and screen suspicious individuals to ensure that they are not attempting to do harm to the American public.
Interdicting Drug Traffickers in Virginia
Another priority of Customs and Border Patrol agents is to prevent the distribution of drugs to and from Virginia. The state is located between the two major eastern hubs of drug importation: New York City and Miami. Virginia serves as a conduit for drugs passing between these locations.
Criminal organizations from Mexico are making inroads in the markets for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine distribution throughout the state. In 2012, Virginia authorities charged twelve individuals as being part of an extensive ring smuggling cocaine from Mexico to the northern part of the state.
An additional issue in Virginia is the abuse of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and the trafficking that occurs as a result of this. Seven people from southwest Virginia were sentenced in 2012 for trafficking in Oxycodone.
The Role of Agricultural Specialists in Virginia
The introduction of foreign pest is less obvious, but still a menace to the state of Virginia. The CBP has increased the training of its agents to protect the state from agricultural pests and pathogens that can be brought into the state accidentally. Virginia’s forests and lumber industry are at particular risk from a number of beetles that are on the watch list of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Agricultural Specialists monitor the importation of meat products, plants, vegetables, and fruits that could harbor invasive pests or pathogens.