On the borderline

Officers have come across a host of weapons and drugs at Osoyoos crossing

Canadian Border Services officer Erin Steeksma holds up a large Magnum handgun seized from a person trying to enter the country at the Osoyoos border crossing recently. Such weapons seizures at the Okanagan point of entry are not uncommon.

Canadian Border Services officer Erin Steeksma holds up a large Magnum handgun seized from a person trying to enter the country at the Osoyoos border crossing recently. Such weapons seizures at the Okanagan point of entry are not uncommon.

Packing a Kong on his utility belt may not be a part of the official uniform, but for Canadian Border Services officer Steve Robinson, it’s essential.

His four-legged partner Jack, an explosives and drug detection dog for the region, does his best work with it.

“When he completes his goal he gets his reward, the Kong, and he loves that thing,” said Robinson.

Initial reaction to seeing the dog toy on his utility belt might draw strange looks, but so does having a giant fishing net leaning against a wall in the Osoyoos border services office.

“Oh, that is actually part of our aviation control. Sometimes we get birds in the building up in the rafters,” chuckles Michael Cacchioni, superintendent for the Port of Osoyoos.

This is a side of officers many don’t see when crossing the border into Canada. Cacchioni admits one of the biggest misconceptions of border guards is that “they are all mean.” But their stern-while-still-being-polite approach comes with reason. A display table full of just some of the seized guns and weapons from the past year proves that point.

“I think the job has changed. Historically the reason why customs was formed was for things such as revenue collection, but our focus has become a bit different — there is gun seizures, arresting people for warrants, smuggling and drugs,” said Cacchioni. “What a lot of people don’t see are these types of threats and seizures behind the scenes. They just think I’m being nickled and dimed on my extra block of cheese or whatever. They may not be privy that while they are in a 20-minute lineup to get across the border to Canada that we are executing a warrant on someone who is wanted or conducting a weapons seizure.”

One package marked as “hunting knives,” contained some very intimidating gloves sitting on the seized items table. With three, razor sharp blades about seven inches protruding from the finger area, in the style of X-men character Wolverine, these weapons were found by Canadian border guards. Then there are the guns — all shapes, sizes and colours.

“I can’t begin to count the number of times I have seized weapons personally where the person has had it fully loaded in the console or glove box and think nothing of having it there,” said Cacchioni. “Obviously the gun laws in the U.S. are significantly different than ours … to a certain extent it is shocking what people try to bring over the border considering how much information there is out there.”

Just on Sept. 22 a U.S. resident was selected for further inspection and officers discovered two semi-automatic handguns — one concealed in the glove compartment, the other in the centre console. Officers arrested the woman for smuggling the firearms and seized her vehicle.

The Osoyoos port, which is celebrating its 150th year of being open, is one of the busier border crossings in the district in regard to seizures, said Cacchioni. He said quite often it is Americans and other foreign nationals who they seize guns from, while Canadian travellers often get confused about what items are exempt or not allowed back into the country. Tobacco and alcohol are often the major trip-ups.

“The best thing to do if you are unsure about any items you are bringing back, is go to our website where everything is listed, or call the border information line. At the very least, when you get to the border ask the officer about the item rather than not declare and see if you can get through with it. Trying that, in the case of weapons, can ultimately lead to prosecution,” said Cacchioni.

For more travel tips for returning Canadians visit www.cbsa.gc.ca or call 1-800-461-9999.

 

Just Posted

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Burned-out bathroom could cost Vernon $25K

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Cody Bandsma practises kiting with his new paraglider wing at Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Cody Bandsma reaching new heights over the Shuswap

Former 100 Mile resident discovers Salmon Arm by air with powered paraglider

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Investigation ongoing after child struck by vehicle downtown Vernon

A young child was taken to hospital Friday with undetermined injuries

David Larsen, left, and co-host Tony Peyton. (K96.3/Twitter)
Popular Kelowna radio host dies after battle with cancer

David Larsen was half of the longtime Kelowna morning-show duo David and Tony

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Most Read