SURREY, B.C. – In the drug smuggling trade, only so much product can be attempted to be shipped undetected in passenger vehicles.
A rising trend to move larger quantities of illegal goods in tractor-trailers has put the RCMP in B.C. on alert and the enforcement agency recently established a toll-free hotline in an attempt to hone in on some of the drug sources.
“The security of our transportation system and the hard-working men and women in our transportation industry are vital to Canada’s economy,” said Cpl. Norm Massie, with the RCMP Border Integrity Unit. “Unfortunately, organized crime is preying on truckers to transport contraband, mostly drugs such as ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine as well as firearms and money through Canada and the US designated ports of entry.”
Truckers are being subjected to exploitation by organized crime when they are offered large sums of money to smuggle contraband through the Canada/US ports of entry.
The tip line, 888-598-4602, was established in the second week of January. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday an RCMP officer will answer the phone, while outside of those hours calls will be answered by an automated recording.
Every call made to the tip line is guaranteed anonymity by the RCMP.
“There is an absolute guarantee of anonymity,” noted Cst. Jas Johal, with the RCMP Border Integrity Unit. “I personally set up the line so…there’s no caller ID.”
All calls can be anonymous, but Johal explained that if a caller wanted to arrange an interview off-site with an officer, it can be arranged.
With the relatively cheap cost of setting up a toll-free line, the initiative has not been in the works long, but the RCMP feel it could make a difference.
“We just saw so many cases where drugs were being run across the border,” explained Johal. “We wanted to give a chance for the 99% of honest truck drivers to do something if they know of drug smuggling; it’s basically a tip line.”
Established specifically for the trucking community, the line can be used to report any cross-border smuggling whether it’s drugs, weapons or money.
“You can only smuggle so much in a car or motorcycle, we’re looking at large quantities in the trucks,” said Johal.
“If you’re introducing that kind of contraband there’s going to be consequences.”
The list of consequences ranges well beyond having a criminal record attached to your name.
“When organized crime approaches you, it’s just best to say ‘no’,” added Johal.
“Are you prepared to lose your family, your house, your truck for a measly 30 or 40 grand? The biggest deterrent, I’d say, is losing your family and losing your kids. I know a guy who says the lowest feeling he has ever felt is not being able to hold his daughter at night.”
Although truckers are often told by people acting for organized crime groups they will not get caught, the RCMP and Canada Border Services officers are aware of the various methods for concealing contraband and a trucker smuggling contraband takes a very high risk of being caught.
“We believe there are lots of honest, hard-working drivers out there,” said Johal. “But these guys are going to great lengths to get hidden compartments installed. The CBSA knows them, we know them – if you take that route we will catch you.”
Johal also stressed that when a driver is caught, they should not expect any help from the sources that paid them to become smugglers.
“They’ll watch you get caught and leave you high and dry,” he explained. “If you’ve lost 200 kilos of coke, you’re not best friends with these guys anymore. You really are better off going to jail.”
With the tip line, the RCMP is hoping to get its message out to everyone on the road. Members of organized crime are targeting all drivers from owner/operators to company drivers and as Johal pointed out, there’s no way to profile a smuggler.
RCMP are hoping that the trucking industry can help identify the people who are victimizing individual truckers by offering them money to do the dirty work for them.
“The primary message is innocent, hard-working people do not get involved,” said Johal.
“We’ve already received several good tips on this phone already. If I can save one driver from getting involved it’s a positive effort.