Criminal arrests of border agents have surged amid aggressive hiring practices

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At least 268 CBP agents arrested during fiscal year 2018.

Criminal activity among Customs and Border Protection agents has spiked by in recent years according to an internal government document obtained by Quartz.

The level of criminality reached a five-year high, the outlet noted.

There were 268 CBP agents arrested during fiscal year 2018, which ended on Sept. 30, according to the CBP's discipline analysis report. However, some employees were arrested multiple times, including one Border Patrol agent who racked up two DUIs in a single week, and another employee who was arrested five times over the course of the year.

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Drug and alcohol-related misconduct topped the list of offenses, with 129 arrests, which included 94 alcohol-related driving arrests. The 57 arrests for domestic violence marked a 10.5% increase from the previous year, and 15 arrests for "crimes involving children" included six arrests related to child pornography.

Overall, the number of arrests of CBP employees rose by 11% between 2017 and 2018.

"[A]n unacceptable number of CBP employees are arrested each year for violating federal, state, or local law," the report stated. The rate of arrests of CBP employees was five times as high as other law enforcement agencies, according to data from the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database.

Further, some experts suggest the number of arrests don't accurately reflect the actual level of criminal activity within the agency.

"Obviously if it's a major crime, those aren't things you can sweep under the rug," Christopher Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former police officer, told Quartz. "But even lower felony stuff might get overlooked. There's so much passing over of bad things when cops do it."

The spike in criminal behavior may be related to an order by Donald Trump, who demanded the agency hire thousands more border patrol agents in January 2017.

James Tomsheck, CBP's chief of internal affairs from 2006-2014, told Quartz there was a "clear relationship" between criminal activity and a rush to hire more agents. Similar spikes in wrongdoing happened when George W. Bush demanded an 8,000-person increase in border agents in 2006. At that time, CBP reduced training for new agents and at times didn't bother to perform background checks.

This time around, CBP insists it is doing things differently.

"All successful applicants must still pass a polygraph examination, strenuous vetting checks, and the highest level of background investigation available, in addition to still undergoing basic training at our academies," CBP said in a statement. "We are confident that our recruiting and hiring processes are exceptionally strong."

Increased criminal activity is only the latest scandal plaguing CBP.

Mark Morgan, the head of CBP testified to Congress in July that agents were feeling demoralized by the numerous media reports detailing horrific conditions at detention facilities run by his agency. Morgan said the reports "deteriorate the public's understanding and perception" of the situation.

Morgan was referring to reports from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, which detailed the appalling conditions some children faced inside border holding facilities. One doctor compared the buildings to "torture facilities," stating that the children were subject to "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food."

CBP also faced criticism earlier this year when news reports revealed thousands of border patrol agents were members of a secret Facebook group that shared vulgar and sexist memes, and comments about immigrants and Democratic members of Congress.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.