Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) launched in Norfolk
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's ( ICE ) Homeland Security Investigations ( HSI ), U.S. Customs and Border Protection ( CBP ), the U.S. Coast Guard ( USCG ), Virginia Port Authority, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies announced the launch of the Hampton Roads Border Enforcement Security Task Force ( BEST ), which is dedicated to security at the Port of Virginia.
The Hampton Roads BEST is comprised of officers and agents from 10 federal, state and local agencies — responsible for identifying, interdicting and investigating a wide variety of maritime-related crime including trade fraud, cargo theft, and the illegal smuggling of drugs, persons, currency and weapons smuggling.
"Previously established seaport-based BEST teams in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami have already had an impact on smuggling and other criminal activity in their regions," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Washington, D.C. "We expect to replicate that success here in Hampton Roads and will work with our partners to combat the criminal and terrorist organizations that might seek to exploit the Port of Virginia's large cargo volumes to commit maritime-related crimes such as smuggling."
Twenty-one BESTs currently exist throughout the country at major gateways to the United States like the Miami Seaport, the Southwest Border and the New York Seaport/Canadian Border. Virginia's Hampton Roads region is home to the third largest port on the East Coast — the Port of Virginia.
"The Port of Virginia is an economic engine that is critical to the Commonwealth and ensuring the security of the cargo moving in and out of our port is a vital component to keeping that engine healthy and operational," said Jerry A. Bridges, Virginia Port Authority executive director. "We welcome BEST task force and the added layer of security it will provide; we look forward to working with its members."
The first early success of the BEST came in April 2011 with the seizure of 55 kilograms of cocaine found in a vessel that transited the Panama Canal and docked at the Port of Virginia.
Agencies participating in the Hampton Roads BEST include: ICE HSI; CBP; USCG; Virginia Port Authority Police Department; Virginia State Police; Transportation Security Administration; Norfolk Airport Authority Police Department; Food and Drug Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Internal Revenue Service.