Officials tour the White Rock pier after a news conference Friday. Below: Rear Admiral Keith Taylor speaks

Officials tour the White Rock pier after a news conference Friday. Below: Rear Admiral Keith Taylor speaks

Feds launch cross-border maritime decision in White Rock

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the Shiprider program is here to stay Friday, at a press conference at White Rock Museum.

Piloted enforcement measures that level the playing field for authorities tackling cross-border crime on the water are now permanent.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the Shiprider program is here to stay Friday, during a press conference at the White Rock Museum and Archives.

Flanked by U.S. and Canadian enforcement officials, Toews said Shiprider – in which vessels jointly crewed by officers from both sides of the border patrol the international boundary – has proven itself an effective tool.

As example, Toews cited one test of the co-ordinated effort that resulted in the seizure of $2.6 million in illegal currency near Sidney and the arrest of a Canadian in connection with the cash.

The program was also a valuable addition to enforcement efforts during the 2010 Winter Olympics, he said.

“Vancouver/Blaine” and “Windsor/Detroit” are home to the first two locations of the integrated operational effort, Toews said.

White Rock news conferenceThe program has been explored since 2005, and crew members are jointly trained and authorized to enforce the law on both sides of the border “without the limitations of traditional police jurisdictions,” RCMP Assistant Cmsr. Todd Shean said.

The ability of the officers to flow freely between Canada and the U.S. increases the safety and security of the public while respecting the sovereignty of both countries, he said.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Keith Taylor said the tools provided by the integrated effort will help prevent organized criminals from exploiting previous limitations to law enforcement that were created by the international borders.

Taylor noted that enforcement operations in each country will be led by the respective authorities. Canadian operations will see the vessels crewed by three or four Canadian officers and one American officer, and vice-versa for U.S. operations, he said.

White Rock pierRCMP Assistant Cmsr. Wayne Rideout said Shiprider will “remove the advantage criminals have and even the playing field for us.”

Toews did not have specific costs of the program, but emphasized that it has been “very carefully vetted over the last six years.”

He is optimistic results seen in the testing phase will continue.

“Everything that I saw, I was really encouraged that this was the right direction to go in.”

After the announcement, with media in tow, officials toured Canadian and U.S. vessels docked at the end of the White Rock pier.