Havre Sector Border Patrol Chief Agent Christopher Richards, after Chief Michael Fisher officially gave him command of the immense sector headquartered in Havre, said his top priorities will be to focus on communication and collection — information is crucial to keeping the area safe and secure.
“The collection of intelligence is really the way we need to determine how to deploy (resources),” Richards said. “That has to be the prerequisite. We just can’t send people out into nowhere. They need to be out there with purpose.”
He said that is crucial to the Patrol’s shift to risk-based, rather than resource-based, management. The Patrol has to know where are the risks — and where problems are probable, not just possible — to know how to deploy its resources.
He said that includes the Border Patrol looking for input from the public.
“Always. Always … ,” Richards said. “I will tell you that the community plays a big role in border security. The residents in Havre and all along the Hi-Line, when they see things that are out of the norm, we want them to call us, especially if they think it might have to do with cross-border illegal activity. They’re our eyes and ears.”
He said people can reach his agents, toll free, at 1-888-700-6781 to report anything they see.
Richards and Fisher both said the changes in the Border Patrol — including bills pending in Congress that could increase the number of agents in the Patrol — could bring more agents to the Havre Sector. But the risk in the sector first has to be assessed.
The Border Patrol doesn’t know if the number of agents now assigned — up from fewer than 4,000 in the 1980s to more than 21,000 now is the right number for the agency.
“But we do know that we don’t have all of those people in the right locations,” Richards said.
Fisher said his office now is asking the agents in the field to identify their requirements, to be part of the implementation of the Patrol’s national strategy.
“So we ask the chief, given what we are asking you to do here in Havre, tell us what the requirements are going to be,” Fisher said. “In some cases, it may be additional technology, in some cases it may be additional Border Patrol agents, in some cases it may be additional flexibility,” allowing the chief to move agents around.
Both Fisher and Richards said there is no belief that the southern border with Mexico, which receives the most attention, is more important than the northern border.
“Inside the Beltway, whenever we talk about border security everybody’s mind immediately goes to the southwest border, and there’s good reason for that,” Richards said. “That’s where the activity is. That’s where we have vast amounts of migrants coming across our borders and where most of the activity is.
“That doesn’t mean we’re less important in any way,” he said, adding that all borders, including the nation’s coast, are areas of concern for the Patrol.
Fisher said it is Richards’ job to identify where are the threats along the 456 miles of U.S.-Canadian border in the Havre Sector, and what is needed. All areas are of equal concern, he added.
“We don’t … look at areas along our border as one being a priority or not,” Fisher said. “Our borders of the United States, northern or southern, are a priority to this country. We look, then, to try to identify the areas of highest risk.
“As the chief had mentioned earlier, it’s not about the possibility of somebody just coming across, it’s about probability,” he said. “And with that we need information; we have to be able to integrate the intelligence and the technology; and we have to get there through rapid response.”