CBP Officers in Buffalo Rescue Two Children in Abduction Attempt
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have exciting careers from facilitating trade and travel at 328 ports of entry across the country to preventing terrorists and terrorists’ weapons from entering the United States and the illegal trafficking of people, narcotics, and contraband.
For four CBP officers working at the Port of Buffalo in New York, July 2018 was a typical hot and humid day, but the day’s events were anything but typical.
On any given day, the Area Port of Buffalo sees approximately 32,000 visitors pass through its ports of entry. Each day, officers process over 15,000 passenger vehicles, 2,600 commercial vehicles, and 900 pedestrians. CBP Officer Joseph Gonsowski was performing his normal duties when a van, passing through the U.S. border from Canada, pulled up to his booth in the primary inspection lane.
“The driver was a father with his two kids in the back seat,” said CBPO Gonsowski. “The kids seemed fine during inspection, but when I returned their passports, the little girl’s face changed.”
The visible distress on the girl’s faced prompted CBPO Gonsowski to ask her if something was wrong. Before she could answer, the father drove off as CBPO Gonsowski heard the little girl start to yell.
“I heard her say, ‘I am supposed to be with my mom, my dad took us,’” he said. “I ran after the van, called some other CBPOs, and we started to investigate the situation.”
CBPO Anthony Tabone and CBPO David Mulvihill contacted the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Toronto Police Department. They confirmed the father was in violation of a court order and did not have custodial rights. He was immediately turned over to the custody of the Canada Border Security Agency and arrested for kidnapping.
Meanwhile, CBPO Jillian Spinelli stayed with the children and consoled them as much as she could. “As a parent, I just tried to think of how I would want someone to react and treat my kids if they were in any complicated situation,” said CBPO Spinelli. “I tried to comfort them by asking simple basic questions. Anything that could keep them calm, earn their trust, and distract them from the current upsetting situation they were in.”
Once the CBPOs located the mother, CBP drove the children to the Toronto Police Department to reunite the children with her — an intense case solved by the protection of the officers at the land border.
“With this job, you can go from zero to one hundred in no time,” said CBPO Spinelli.
CBPO Spinelli started her career with CBP in 2009 after stumbling across a job announcement on USAJobs.gov.
“I always knew I wanted to have a federal law enforcement career. I was at the right place at the right time when I saw the CBP officer job announcement — the job description immediately piqued my interest,” she said. “When you’re a CBP officer, you can relocate, you can move around within the agency, you can take a detail to another office for a short period, you can do a lot of different things if you’re interested in exploring — I know CBP officers who have taken temporary opportunities in the Bahamas, Ireland, and Poland.”
As a CBP officer, the opportunities are endless.
CBP officers are responsible for border security, including anti-terrorism, immigration, anti-smuggling, trade compliance, and agriculture protection at U.S. ports of entry. They staff over 300 land, air, and sea ports of entry throughout the United States, including several pre-clearance duty stations overseas.
“It feels good knowing we are making a difference,” said CBPO Gonsowski, who joined CBP in 2009. “When we run into situations where we have the chance to really help people in danger — that’s my favorite part of the job.”
CBPO Tabone, who joined CBP in June 2012, added, “Every day is different — we handle all types of cases, everything from local warrants and federal warrants to drug and currency smuggling. We are the first interaction with the traveling public so we learn a lot about different cultures, people, and ways of life.”
“I love coming to work,” he said. “To me, it’s not work when you love doing what you do.”