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The New York Times January 10, 1954
Customs Data for This Port in 1953 Show Drop of 969 in All Types of Seizures


Smugglers of narcotics and other contraband either diverted their operations from new york to other points last year or were more ingenious in cloaking their methods than in 1952, if the number and size of seizures made here by the United States Customs Service can be taken as a barometer.

Similarly, inbound passengers and the crews of ships and planes either were more honest or were more successful in 1953 in secreting undeclared, prohibited or restricted articles than were the travelers of the year before.

Statistics made available by Robert W. Dill, Collector of Customs, covering the four main divisions of the service-- enforcement, baggage inspection, port patrol and cargo inspection-- showed that seizures of all kinds last year amounted to 3,080, a decrease of 969 from the 1952 total.

Narcotics seizures were fewer than 200 last year and, except for two or three, were in small packets measured in ounces or less. Seizures the previous year included one of seven and one-half pounds of crude opium and another of five pounds of heroin. Jewelry seizures in 1953 ranged in domestic value from $50 to $3,600, while the range in 1952 was up to $15,000.

The statistics showed that the Customs Service, though undermanned through personnel cuts, processed 992,842 passengers in bound from foreign points by ship and plane-- the largest influx since the boom immigration days of the early 1900's.

10% Increase in Baggage

They carried 3.337,639 pieces of baggage. Or 308, 310 pieces more than the 931,508 travelers who entered the sea and air ports of New York in 1952. The customs officers made spot checks of 2,632 ships and 210 planes for contraband and processed the cargoes and papers of 24,735 arriving or departing vessels.

Processing of the passengers was the chore of the baggage division, headed by Deputy Collector, John F. Kessler. He said the 1953 influx was the largest since his division started keeping records in 1921.

The 1953 figure included 456,408 travelers who arrived by ship with 1,904,592 pieces of luggage, and 536,434 persons with 1,433,047 pieces of baggage, who arrived by air. The air total included 148,745 persons, who merely crossed the border from Canada, but nevertheless had to be examined by Customs officers.

While conducting examinations the division made 260 seizures, including such items as liquor candies, obscene articles and pictures, narcotics and medicines with too high a percentage of narcotics, diamonds and other gems, jewelry and watches and movements. The largest seizure was of jewelry with a domestic value of $3,600, taken from an air passenger.

Perhaps the most difficult assignment is that of the Port Patrol, headed by John R. Herries, Deputy Collector. His division of 295 officers and men has the task of patrolling 770 miles of waterfront to prevent smuggling.

923 Seizures Made in 1953

Last year the patrol made 923 seizures of all types of items brought into the country illegally and also stopped 170 attempts by thieves to take steamship company property from piers. Penalties assessed against the smugglers and thieves amounted to $29,920.

This branch is also responsible for guarding the exits of passenger piers to insure that travelers do not leave the premises before their baggage has been examined. The patrol has eighteen radio cars to aid in waterfront policing.

The largest number of seizures in 1953 was made by the enforcement division, headed by Deputy Collector Herman Lipski. His men, in searches of 2,632 ships and 210 airplanes, made 1,727 seizures.

Of the total, 145 were of narcotics, which combined, amounted to 297 ounces of marijuana, eighty-six ounces of heroin, thirty-three ounces of opium and fifteen ounces of morphine and codeine.

Mr. Lipski said heroin sells on the illegal market at about $25,000 a pound and opium at about $3,000 a pound. Marijuana, he said is worth about $80 an ounce. The official noted that smugglers appear to have by-passed New York as far as large-scale attempts are concerned.

The largest seizures during the year were two caches of heroin of about four and one-half pounds each, found aboard the liner Constitution.

The enforcement division also cooperates with the Coast Guard in searching ships inbound from foreign ports for possible atomic bombs or fissionable materials.

The cargo division, headed by Deputy Collector Bernard A. Costello, last year processed the cargoes on 12,334 inbound cargo ships and cleared 12,401 vessels.


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