The Civil Air Patrol, best known for its search-and-rescue and disaster relief activities, has signed on with the U.S. Customs Service to help in the war against drugs.
Customs Commissioner William von Raab said the CAP, the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, will help Customs by trying to spot suspected drug-smuggling boats offshore, searching for remote landing sites and patrolling known air smuggling corridors.
Brig. Gen. William B. Cass, the CAP's national commander, said the organization now has 68,000 volunteer members and 6,000 light aircraft.
During World War II, the CAP played a major role in patrolling the U.S. coastline and spotting and bombing German submarines. In assisting Customs, however, the CAP pilots will not be allowed to participate in any actual pursuits or arrests.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH . . . The Customs Service has just started a citizen participation program in Florida to try to crack down on drug traffickers there. Citizens can call 800-BE-ALERT to report suspicious activity that appears to be related to drug smuggling. The callers are not required to leave their names.
To further expand drug enforcement activities in Florida, von Raab recently announced Blue Lightning, an experimental program that will merge Customs Service resources with 17 police and sheriff's departments. Under the program, which is expected to be fully operational by next year, Customs officers will be allowed to accompany local law enforcement officials and the local officers will be able to ride in Customs boats and planes.
For example, von Raab said, "Officers working for . . . Metro Dade County Police will be able to stop suspect vessels and take advantage of the broader search authority of the Customs officers who will be riding with them."
At the same time, von Raab announced that Customs will be deploying 34 new patrol boats in the area, including 18 high-speed interceptors known as "Blue Thunder" boats.
Von Raab said all the boats participating in Blue Lightning will be flying a new "battle" flag, a red cross over a white background, overlaid with a blue eagle and a pale-blue lightning bolt.
COCAINE CRACKDOWN . . . In an attempt to reduce the growing problem of cocaine-trafficking across the Mexican border, Customs is now hiring 81 new inspectors who will be stationed between Brownsville, Tex., and San Ysidro, Calif. The inspectors will search for drugs, both on land and in the air. Customs will soon have 14 new aircraft along the border to search for and track smugglers.
TOP TEN . . . Customs is putting together a list of its Top Ten "high-tech" fugitives, modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Ten Most Wanted" list. The people who make the Customs list will be sought for crimes such as selling sophisticated computer parts or defense-related equipment to hostile foreign powers.