Customs Services Division inspectors and other personnel are now protected when they inspect cargo and luggage at ports of entry or respond to incidents, thanks to some $18,000 worth of newly-purchased personal protective equipment from the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Tactical vests, tactical shoes, duty pants, tactical belts, duty belts, and windbreaker jackets of 20 sets each are now ready for Customs personnel use.
“They are blood-borne pathogen resistant…They are not your typical gear,” special assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Marvin Seman said in a briefing yesterday at the Customs seaport office.
Every time customs personnel open up and inspect cargo at the seaport, for example, they run the risk of being exposed to hazardous material and it would be best to have some form of personal protective gear, Seman said.
Customs director Joe Mafnas said these are equipment that Customs “really needs.”
Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, Mafnas, and Customs seaport branch manager Greg M. Sablan thanked Seman and the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the personal protective equipment.
“This will really help us complete our mission in protecting our community,” Larson said. Customs is under the Department of Finance.
Sablan explained the uses of many of the donated protective gear, which were purchased from a local vendor. He said this is the first time that Customs received donations from the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which receives grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Seman acknowledged that the donation is not enough, so they are planning on doing the donations in phases.
K9 at post office
Customs director Joe Mafnas announced yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service is taking into consideration the CNMI’s request to allow Customs’ K9 or drug-detector dogs to be used at the post office in Chalan Kanoa once again.
Mafnas said he has been communicating with Rafael Nunez, acting inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in San Francisco Division; the last one was yesterday morning.
Nunez has jurisdiction over the CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii, among other areas.
In an interview, Mafnas said Nunez is working on a memorandum of agreement and standard operating procedures that he hopes would allow K9 to sniff through mails and packages at post office in Chalan Kanoa to detect drugs and other illegal items.
Once the draft MOA and SOP are done, Larson would have a chance to review it and provide input.
Mafnas hopes the MOA and SOP would be done soon.
“I feel we’re moving in the right direction,” he added.
For several weeks now, Customs drug-detector dogs have not been allowed entry into the post office in Chalan Kanoa.
For years, Customs’ drug-detector dogs have proven to be effective detection tools, including interception of Christmas cards laced with the drug “ice” years back.
Mafnas said the post office in Chalan Kanoa is a small facility that using a K9 to sniff through mails and packages would only take some 10 minutes, and won’t disrupt operations.
Mafnas and Larson pointed out that Customs is still running K9 in the cargo, among other things.