Border line harassment at Route 37 checkpoint?
To the Editor:
If you think that Border Patrol checkpoints aren’t an issue (“Checkpoints Not an Issue,” North Country This Week, June 20-26, 2012), you haven’t traveled along Route 37 at night. They like to hang out between the Coles’ Creek Marina and the entrance to the Coles’ Creek State Park.They will ask you where you’re coming from, where you’re going to, and if you’re a United States citizen, though I have never been asked- yet- to produce my license. Because I was stopped so frequently, especially back in March, I have gotten into the habit of wearing my lanyard home from work. “Oh you had the closing shift at work?”
These stops are annoying, but that is not the only issue I have with their checkpoints.
My boyfriend and I were travelling down Route 37 Sunday, April 8 about 9 p.m. We were coming to our apartment in Waddington from dinner at his parents’ in Winthrop. We had decided, earlier that day, to take separate vehicles, meet up at my parents’ for lunch, then head to his parents.’ He rode his motorcycle and I had my car, so we decided to go through Massena and down more travelled routes to get home. The problem arose when we approached Coles’ Creek. I was in the lead, so I was stopped first at the checkpoint. They began asking me their routine questions: was I a U.S. citizen, where I was going, etc. During this line of questioning, they brought out the German shepherd, who sniffed my car and proceeded to put his paws up on the trunk of my vehicle.
I was asked to pull over to the side of the road and get out of my car, but I was not told why. My boyfriend pulled over in front of my vehicle. The agents looked at him in confusion to which he replied that we were travelling together.
They searched my entire vehicle while I stood there with a male officer. After the search that yielded no results, they told me that I was free to go and to “have a good night.” I was seething!
Now, you might be thinking to yourself “those dogs are trained to sniff out drugs and would only react if they smelled something” and, of course, you’d be correct. However, this dog didn’t smell drugs in my car. It smelled the leftover Mulligan stew my boyfriends’ mother had packed in a container for us to take home. Why was I pulled over, especially after I had gone through three previous times that week with no issue?
Why was I, a 27-year-old female, being asked to get out of my car at 9 p.m., escorted by a male officer? Did the dog not know the difference between leftovers and illegal substances or are they not properly feeding their animals? Is it too old to do the job? My advice: don’t travel Route 37 at night. If you can’t avoid the route, don’t travel with food in your car.
Kimberley Wise, Waddington