CNMI Customs Services Division director Joe Mafnas said drug-detector dogs or K9 are no longer allowed to sniff through mails and packages at the U.S. Post Office in Chalan Kanoa, but the option of checking incoming mails while they are still in sacks at the airport could delay the availability of mails at the post office.
Right now, the mails at the post office do not go through inspections of highly-trained dogs which, for years, have proven to be an added inspection tool, including interception of Christmas cards laced with the drug “ice” years back.
“Our K9 is basically banned at the U.S. Post Office for several weeks now but we continue to communicate to the Guam and Hawaii offices to allow us to use our K9 at the post office because it makes the job of inspecting mails faster than when it’s done at the airport when the mails are still in sacks,” Mafnas told Saipan Tribune at the awarding of training certificates for 11 of 12 Customs personnel on Friday.
Mafnas said dogs can “pinpoint mails with drugs faster when the mails are already laid out instead of having all the mails in the sack” at the airport.
Customs is awaiting a response from the U.S. Post Office on the matter.
Based on preliminary information, the U.S. Postal Service does not allow Customs K9, with their handlers, to check mails and packages without the presence of a U.S. postal inspector, Mafnas said.
“But the thing is, we do not have a postal inspector full-time here in the CNMI; the only one they have in this area is based in Guam,” he added.
Mafnas said it’s “bothersome” that the prohibition on K9 at the post office came “without a warning or notice.”
This comes barely weeks after Customs revived its K9 program in early July.
The CNMI Customs Services Division’s K9 Unit was once touted a model in the Pacific but was sidelined starting in June 2012 due to lack of funds and certified drug-detector dog handlers. When Mafnas got re-appointed to the job he previously held, one of his priorities was to revive the K9 unit.
In related story, Customs personnel received basic customs training completion certificate on Friday morning at the governor’s office on Capital Hill.
Of the 12 who completed the training, 11 were at the ceremony, while one was on Rota.
The Customs director introduced the 11 to Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, and other officials.
Mafnas said the group received training from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the CNMI Customs Investigative Unit, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Department of Public Safety. Four of them were also Workforce Investment Agency trainees.
One of those who completed the training is James F. Santos, who has been with Customs for about a year.
“I like to help protect our borders from any illegal drugs and activities that’s why I worked with Customs. I want the CNMI to become a better place,” Santos, a father of two, told Saipan Tribune.
The governor, during a brief ceremony, congratulated the Customs personnel whom he said were able to show their commitment by completing the training.
“And we’d like for you to do a good job,” Inos said.
Mafnas also presented the new Customs patch during the ceremony.