(WXYZ) - Our vast infrastructure of trains, planes, boats, and roadways, makes Detroit an attractive place for terrorists.
Agents have over 800 miles of border to patrol and protect. Yet, when they first organized, there were only 26 agents working out of the Detroit office.
After 9/11 that number increased 400 percent.
“First and foremost is terrorism and the activities that surround terrorism is a priority,” said Agent Mark Hall.
Meet Border Patrol Agent Mark Hall. We rode along with him one evening to see how protecting our borders have changed since the terrorist attack on 9/11. The other agents call Hall ‘The Godfather’ because he is that good, and he has been around for almost 27 years.
“Our manpower was really lacking back then as opposed to today,” said Agent Hall.
When the Rochester native started protecting Detroit’s borders, he was only one of 26 agents.
“It wasn’t taken all that seriously back then,” he said.
But, that all changed September 11, 2001.
“On 9/11 I was coming in for a meeting. We were looking at a new station. I was actually getting off at 375 and the East Jefferson exit when the first airplane hit,” said Agent Hall. “I listened to it on the radio and then came in.”
Agents were immediately thrown on 12 hour shifts to police 863 miles of international borders that divide us from Canada.
“Then when we realized the second plane hit we scrapped the meeting and everybody went out on high profile patrols.
Trying to get a grip and a handle on what was happening,” said Agent Hall.
After 9/11 U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Detroit sector pumped up their team from 26 to 400 strong.
“Today the borders are much more secure than what they were back on 9/11. It’s not perfect, but it is ten-fold better probably than what it was,” said Agent Hall.
They have more advanced technology now with cameras that act as spying eyes at tunnels, along the bridges, on the waterways, and in the sky.
The security effort extends to the water as well. So that 400 percent increase in people on land also affects everything on the water as well.
The short distance between Michigan and Canada is too attractive to smugglers, drug runners, and terrorists.
Our cameras also rode along the Detroit River with three border agents that included Agent Todd Wilcox.
“Every day it’s something new. You have to stay on your toes,” said Agent Todd Wilcox.
He has only known this job post 9/11.
“Wow, high school English class. Yep, I remember it quite vividly. Football practice was canceled,” said he said.
After college the New Hampshire native traded in his business suit for the border patrol uniform.
“I don’t know a terrorist looks like, and that’s what makes it difficult,” said Agent Wilcox.
They routinely check boater registrations and stopping boats for checks.
“You never know when 9/11 is going to repeat itself,” said Agent Wilcox.
The water patrols are supplemented by the road patrols to make sure Detroit is not a soft target for terrorism or terrorist activities. Both back up agencies like the coastguard and local departments like the Detroit Police.
While we rode with Agent Hall, he told us that he knows they will never be able to secure the borders 100 percent, but that doesn’t mean that they will ever stop trying.
“We’ll never stop bank robberies and we’ll never stop speeding, but we don’t legalize bank robberies and speeding because we’re never going to stop it. But just because we can’t do that, you don’t give up,” said Agent Hall.
The Department of Homeland Security has advised Americans to be extra vigilant this weekend, especially because 9/11 is such an important date and anniversary.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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