MEMBERS of Henley Probus Club who met at Badgemore Golf Club in August had high expectations of the speaker, Malcolm
MEMBERS of Henley Probus Club who met at Badgemore Golf Club in August had high expectations of the speaker, Malcolm Nelson.
They were not to be disappointed.
Malcolm began by saying that he had spent 40 years as a customs officer at Heathrow airport, catching smugglers. He had members’ full attention.
He said people often asked him how he knew what to look for when passengers came through customs or, as he put it, “how does a customs officer pick out a likely person as the mass of people stream past?”
The officer may think that a person just “doesn’t look right” in some way: clothing, movement, gestures and more.
It is a scientific process, which begins with identifying the high-risk flights from countries from where smuggling is known to take place. Customs personnel have information from police and security bodies around the world.
Some staff may be assigned to the tarmac, working with other officers on the entry channels.
Detection information teams study passenger lists and information on specific persons before the planes arrive. Passengers’ behaviour is vital information in identifying potential smugglers.
People behave in a way which is not consistent with their appearance when, for example, their air fare is paid for in cash.
Any change in body language when challenged is another clue. When someone is extremely calm, which is not natural behaviour in an innocent person, this is known as false calm.
When a passenger’s appearance is inconsistent with other passengers from a specific destination, a further clue might have been found. Some passengers swallow drugs to avoid detection, among other methods adopted, but this is dangerous.
There are many other methods, such as with false compartments in luggage.
Dogs give invaluable help in detecting up to 30 per cent of drugs seized.
Some dogs are better at a drug type than others. Money, alcohol and tobacco can be detected by some dogs.
Passive dogs are those trained to identify the drug carrier then sit to wait for the officer to act.
Once identified, the customs officer will decide whether to detain the passenger or to let them go and have them followed into Britain, when other gang members might be apprehended. This is known as “letting them run”.
Henley Men’s Probus Club meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Badgemore Golf Club at 10.30am.
For more information, visit henleyprobusclub.wordpress.com