Boats on the Border: Armed agents helping protect WNY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — President Trump’s push to better secure the border has News 4 asking questions about what’s being done in Western New York. Some might feel the lakes leave us vulnerable. Smugglers might assume no one is watching, but they would be wrong.

Every day armed agents based in Buffalo hit the water with one goal: protecting our porous border from those looking to harm to the United States. The Marine Interdiction Agents from the Office of Air and Marine allowed News 4 to board one of their vessels and go on a routine patrol.

“The water is where work. It’s our office. Knowing what’s unusual. Knowing what’s typical. Knowing what a normal mom and pop on a sailboat looks like,” Agent Jon Rose explained. That job becomes more arduous as the summer boating season begins.

“Everyone ready? Coming up,” Agent Robert Canazzi announced. Within seconds, we were soaring, bouncing our way across Lake Erie under Canazzi’s careful command.

He has spent the past nine years patrolling these waters. He didn’t even pause when we asked him if he enjoys it. “Very much so. [I] came over from the Coast Guard to do this. Coast Guard is more search and rescue oriented, and where we’re more law enforcement,” Canazzi said.

“I think people see us. They might confuse us with Border Patrol or the Army Corps of Engineers, and that’s fine. We’re not very flashy,” Agent Rose explained. “We’re basically just trying to be silent. If we can be quiet and blend in, hopefully bad guys won’t notice.”

But blending in isn’t always easy. The agents patrol in boats powered by four Mercury Stroke, 300 horsepower engines. The crew needs the power to be able navigate the sometimes stormy and wild waters of Lake Erie.

“We’ll go out and look for that needle in a haystack. Sometimes it’s very hard to find. Sometimes you get a cold hit on a vessel like that,” Agent Rose noted.

Securing WNY sometimes means crossing the border into Canadian waters. Partnerships with similar agencies across the border increase the chances of criminals being intercepted. “When you talk about smuggling, you talk about firearms going north, for example. Well, something’s gotta come south. That may come in the form of tobacco, cash or firearms,” Agent Rose said.

LEARN MOREClick here to read the agency’s vision for the year 2025.

The agents have the authority to board boats and ask all kinds of questions. It’s a constant search for anything that’s out-of-the-norm. Nationally, the agency has only 380 marine interdiction agents. They cover both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. The agents say, so far, their mission has not changed under the Trump Administration. “The only thing that may change may be hiring numbers. We may get additional agents; we may not,” Agent Rose said frankly.

In the meantime. the Office of Air and Marine continues hiring. The recruiting and training process can take a year or longer, so be prepared to give it some time.

“We’re scanning the border. We’re using our sensors, our forward-looking infrared’s. At night we’re using our radar to look 8, 10, 12 miles out for something that may be interesting to look at it,” Rose explained.

They vow to stay vigilant and keep watching the waterways of WNY, looking for anybody trying to take advantage of America.

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