Sunday 21 January 2018

In a ceaseless battle, officers' instinct may be best weapon

Sean Noone goes behind the scenes with the team of officers at Dublin Airport

HE shifts uncomfortably and the jig is up.

In a split second the passenger, who has just disembarked a flight from Eindhoven, has sold himself out.

Sniffer dog Grace, one of Customs' most important team members, is immediately on the case and the man is brought away for questioning.

Officers discover that he is carrying a few grams of cannabis on his body.

"The officers' first instinct is usually correct," says Shay, the manager of Customs enforcement at Dublin Airport.

He has invited The Herald behind the scenes to see how our borders are protected.

And while his team are equipped with intelligence, sophisticated technology and sniffer dogs, usually the officer's brain is the best tool.

"Officers are encouraged to pursue that [suspicions]. Don't regret something afterwards," the boss says.

The maze of restricted corridors to the hidden observations rooms are unseen by most passengers. But, from inside, Customs keep an eye on everyone travelling through our main airport. You might think that Customs only work at those red, green and blue channels as you exit the terminal but, as The Herald learned, they do so much more.

"A lot of work is done behind the scenes," Shay explains.

"We work closely with colleagues abroad and the gardai."

It's halfway through my tour when the officials bounce into action after receiving a tip-off that a man arriving from Holland may be carrying drugs.

It was nothing more than a 'suspicious booking'.

The man's bag is X-rayed and searched. There proves to be nothing out of the ordinary in his baggage but it shows officials are always watching.

"Our problem is targeting the right flights," Shay said. "Once we have the right flights, it's then about targeting the right people on these flights."

Shay admits that Customs will never be able to stop everything from entering or exiting the country but he is very happy with the work he and his team are doing.

"Look at this," he said gesturing to a table laid out with seized drugs, as we return to the hidden bowels of the airport.

"Imagine the damage it would cause on the streets. Imagine all of the lives this could ruin. We're stopping that. That's where the good feeling comes from."


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