Akwesasne police want more virtual eyes on border with renewed funding
Much of $12.4M in federal funding is to extend program dating back to 2001
The police force for the Kanien'kehá:ka community plans to use about $12.4 million in new and renewed Canadian government funding for crime prevention, including part of it for drones and cameras to watch for smuggling across the Canada-U.S. border.
The Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community along the St. Lawrence River is now tasked with watching three busy borders — Ontario, Quebec and New York state — and, over the years, its traditional fishing has been disrupted by industrial development.
That has contributed to conditions that can leave residents vulnerable to involvement in smuggling, which seems to have had its latest tragic consequences in March when six foreign nationals and two Canadian children drowned in the river.
Police said this was an attempt by the victims to enter the United States illegally from Canada.
About $10.4 million of the money announced by federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino Thursday will go to Akwesasne police over five years to keep up its participation in the 22-year-old Akwesasne Organized Crime Initiative partnership with police and government agencies.
Just under $850,000, available under Canada's First Nations and Inuit Policing Program, will also be used for equipment, according to a news release.
Another $1.13 million comes from the federal Building Safer Communities Fund for crime prevention programs.
Akwesasne police Chief Shawn Dulude said Thursday fixed and drone cameras help the force monitor the water when it becomes too costly to have officers patrolling.
"Instead of human eyes in a boat, we'd have two to three officers looking at cameras 24/7 that will be monitored by our central dispatch," he said.
Dulude noted there has been less activity crossing the border on the river since the drownings, and more activity at land border crossings.
The investigation into March's drownings continues on several fronts.