HIDE AND SEEK: Sgt. Rob Whalen hides fake contraband on this Total Transportation Solutions truck as part of a training exercise.
TORONTO, Ont. –With the help of the trucking industry, some City of Toronto police officers are gaining a better understanding of how transport trucks are being used to move contraband.
On Sept. 9, Toronto police officers had the chance to inspect a straight truck provided by Total Transportation Solutions. For many, it was their first time in a truck, said Sgt. Rob Whalen, 55 Division Traffic Sgt.
“There are some officers who in 30 years on the job have never stopped a tractor-trailer, and it’s only because they’re not comfortable with it,” said Whalen. “The truck driver can generally out-talk the average officer, but once an officer gets familiar with the paperwork a truck driver must have and the normal routine of a truck driver, they become much more efficient at interdicting illegal product.”
Law enforcement agencies have seen an increase in the number of commercial vehicle busts in recent years, involving everything from drugs and weapons, to counterfeit goods and cash.
“I think we’re getting better at catching them,”Whalen said. “We saw a real big decrease around 9/11 because of the extra border security around terrorism, it had a spillover effect into the criminal element. Now that things are back to routine, it’s starting to perk up a bit.”
The officers that gathered at the Toronto Police Service’s 23 Division came from across the city for a two-day course on detecting illegal activity that utilizes Canada’s transportation system. Whalen said fleet managers should also keep their eyes out for telltale signs of criminal activity and report anything suspicious to police.
“There are a lot of little signs to look for,” said Whalen. “Once you know the signs, you can drive down the road and just look at a truck a lot of times and say ‘You know what, there’s something odd about that truck.’ That’s what fleet managers should be looking for – abnormalities.”
Trucks with modified components such as smoke stacks or extended fuel tanks – any compartment where contraband can be hidden – may indicate illegal activity, Whalen noted.
In some cases, legitimate truckers may find themselves unwittingly smuggling contraband, but Whalen said they’re usually actively involved in the process.
“These guys will go to a bar and all of a sudden someone comes up and says ‘You’re pissed at your company? You want to make a couple hundred bucks? Just let us put a package on your load and you don’t even have to know what it is’,” said Whalen. “It’s usually the driver who’s down on his luck a bit.”
In order to continue training officers on how to detect trucks that are involved in hauling contraband, Whalen said trucking industry support is needed.
Total Transportation Solutions, for instance, has extended an open offer to provide trucks for training purposes after the company’s managers attended a conference where Whalen spoke on the subject of truck-related crime.
The fleet was so inspired by the lecture, they invited him to visit their facility to ensure it was secure.