B2 High-Intermediate US 147 Folder Collection
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[Narrator] About 43,000 international travelers
fly in to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport every day.
By passenger volume, it's the US's
largest international airport of entry.
And in just Terminal 4 alone,
that equates to almost 1,000 bags an hour.
And in those suitcases, there's a lot of stuff,
some of which isn't allowed into the country,
including 120 pounds of food per day.
So what happens to all those
confiscated items anyway?
If you flew in to JFK in the '90s,
getting something into the US was a lot easier.
But after 9/11, a conversation started
about how to protect the country
from dangerous foods, drugs, and people.
And US Customs and Border Protection,
as it's known today, was formed.
You'll generally see
two kinds of CBP officials at airports:
officers, like Steve,
and agriculture specialists, like Ginger.
Their job is to find, seize, and destroy
millions of items each year
that don't belong in the United States.
It's a big job, and sometimes it requires a sidekick,
a sidekick on four legs.
Steve Robinson: This is Canine Spike.
Look, Spike.
He is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois.
I've been his only handler from day one.
He's trained in narcotics.
During the duration of our career,
probably seized over 400 different seizures.
[Narrator] CBP officials like Steve
identify high-risk individuals
trying to enter into the US,
as well as drugs and firearms.
And because these are such high stakes,
dogs like Spike are trained in a special way,
in what's called "passive response,"
meaning if they sniff out drugs,
they don't scratch, they don't bark,
and they don't make a scene.
They sit.
And if they're right, the dog gets rewarded.
Robinson: His reward is actually this toy right here.
So he likes to play, so.
Ain't that right?
You like to play! You like to play!
Yes you do! Yes you do!
Let me see it! Let me see it!
Here at the port, we've caught up to
16 keys of ecstasy recently.
[Narrator] Narcotics are then seized
and sent to be incinerated.
The incinerator's location is kept a secret,
as a matter of national security.
Now, pretty much everyone knows
that narcotics aren't allowed
through US borders,
but actually, drugs aren't the most commonly seized
item at JFK.
Food is.
When a regular traveler arrives in the US,
they're required to declare
any food items they're bringing in,
or face up to a $1,000 fine for the first offense.
These items aren't taken because agents want to
eat your yummy Spanish ham or Caribbean mangos.
It's because agents are responsible
for protecting American agriculture
from any foreign pests or diseases
that could affect our livestock or crops.
And that's where agricultural specialists
like Ginger come in.
Ginger Perrone: Everything gets destroyed
to protect against that pest risk.
We are protecting
the country's agricultural interests.
We're protecting against bioterrorism,
where someone could intentionally
try to bring in items
to wreak havoc in this country.
[Narrator] Foreign bugs hitchhiking in luggage
have wreaked havoc in the US before.
Florida's orange and grapefruit growers
lost $2.9 billion from 2007 to 2014
thanks to the Asian citrus psyllid.
And since being introduced into the US in the '90s,
the Asian longhorned beetle
has ravaged hardwood trees.
Eradication efforts between 1997 and 2010
cost more than $373 million.
James Armstrong: In our country,
we go into the grocery store
and the food is always there.
We don't have to look at it for holes
or check if it's got some disease on it.
It always looks great, so we get kind of spoiled,
and we don't really understand
the importance of protecting that.
[Narrator] So it's crucial that even a single
stowaway orange is found and confiscated.
But with 34 million annual international passengers
to and from JFK, going through each of those bags
can seem pretty impossible.
For humans, that is.
Luckily, they've got a little help
from the Beagle Brigade.
This four-legged officer is Biscuit,
and like Spike, Biscuit is trained in passive response.
But Biscuit's trained to sniff out food rather than drugs.
Sal DiSpigna: They actually learn.
They start out with five target odors,
and then over the years he'll expand,
and they retire with sometimes, like,
150 odors that they know.
[Narrator] And Biscuit's pretty good at sniffing.
These beagles have an
estimated 90
Armstrong: Watching your dog sit on three grapes
in a Samsonite hardside suitcase
is just incredible.
Scientists say
their nose is 1,000 times stronger than ours.
And they prove it every single day.
[Narrator] Once Biscuit sniffs out an item,
the passenger in question and their bags go to Ginger,
who will X-ray and search the luggage.
Perrone: OK, these are both your bags, correct?
OK, did you pack everything yourselves?
You packed your bags yourself?
OK.
[Narrator] Ginger unzips the bag
and searches each one by hand.
And if she finds something that's not allowed,
it's seized and held in temporary bins.
Perrone: This is very common from that region.
Once you open it all up, you have grape leaves.
These are horse-meat sausages.
This is another very good example
of what we get very frequently,
especially in the springtime:
This is a plant that they're planning
on bringing here to grow.
So anything for propagation
has additional entry requirements.
So this is two families' worth from one flight.
[Narrator] JFK disposes of the contraband food
in one of two ways:
the grinder, or the incinerator.
Ginger will bag up the seized items
and label them based on their final destination.
Perrone: So we're gonna go walk this bin,
nice and full from those two passengers,
down to our contraband room.
[Narrator] This is the room
where illicit food meets its end.
Perrone: This is our grinding machine.
This is what we'll generally use for fruits, vegetables,
that kind of commodities.
It is called the "Muffin Monster."
[Narrator] But before Ginger can
send a piece of fruit down the Muffin Monster,
she cuts it open, squishes it, and inspects it.
She's looking for evidence of diseases,
insertion points for insects, and exit points for larvae.
If she finds a little bug, like this one,
she neutralizes the pest risk
and sends it to the US Department of Agriculture
for further investigation.
Now it's back to the Muffin Monster:
120 pounds of food are grinded up each day
from arriving international passengers.
Avocados, mangos, and citrus
are among the most common fruits
that end up in the grinder.
Perrone: We do get messy.
It's important to dispose of it properly.
I love to eat, as much as everybody else.
I am a big fan of food.
But I know the importance of making sure that
what we seized, because of established risks,
is disposed of properly
to prevent it from causing problems.
[Narrator] So the next time you've got an orange
tucked into your luggage,
declare it, and let experts like Ginger
decide if it's admissible.
And leave the serrano ham in Spain,
because Biscuit will find it.
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How Illegal Items Are Found And Destroyed At JFK Airport

147 Folder Collection
Annie Huang published on August 3, 2020
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