Vermont backyard cam captures men sneaking across U.S.-Canada border
MONTREAL -- American authorities are seeking three men who drove illegally into the U.S. from Canada this weekend through a Vermont man’s backyard.
How they did it is no mystery, as the entire thing was caught on cameras clearly mounted on the trees.
But to the homeowners, that in itself created a mystery—why anyone would choose to sneak over the border but to do so in one of the most obvious ways possible, in broad daylight and in full view of their windows.
“My neighbour in Canada told me I just missed the excitement,” Alain De La Bruere, who owns the Vermont lot that the men used as their entryway, told CTV News.
“The car went through his driveway and entered the U.S., onto my land, onto my property.”
De La Bruere lives in the town of Derby Line, just under two hours southeast of Montreal. It straddles the border with a sister town in Quebec called Stanstead. The two towns famously even share a library with the border running through its interior.
De La Bruere had gone out on some errands on Saturday morning when a grey or silver minivan pulled up at around 10:30 to the Canadian home that backs onto his own.
It drove right past the neighbours’ house and onto their back lawn, stopping short when a series of granite markers blocked its way. Three men got out.
In the video, all three appear to be tall white men, perhaps in their early or mid-30s, with brown hair. One is wearing all black, one is in green and the third is in an eye-catching red jacket.
WATCHING FROM THE WINDOW
De La Bruere’s neighbour was home at the time, as well as the neighbour’s wife, who watched the whole thing. She opted not to confront the men herself but called border guards, De La Bruere said.
However, the group made it over before authorities could arrive. De La Bruere’s surveillance cameras caught them puzzling over how to get past the barriers.
“Every four feet, there’s a granite block,” he said, covering an open stretch of lawn of about 45 metres.
The granite markers are small, each about 1 metre wide and 20 centimetres high, said De La Bruere. However, they are secured by pins that are sunk a metre into the ground.
On one end of the row there’s also a metre-high granite marker that says it’s the U.S.-Canada border—and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol cameras are attached to the tree, in addition to his own private cameras, said De La Bruere.
“It's obvious there's pins in [the granite blocks], and it’s obvious there’s cameras,” he said.
When the men first tried to drive through, “they hit the block,” he said. Then the three men tried to uproot a block and “couldn’t do it,” said De La Bruere.
But then they realized the last block in the row was missing a pin and they could move it aside.
“So a couple of guys were able to move the block, and when they did move the block they went to their vehicle that was parked next to the road and they were jumping for joy,” he said.
They pulled through the gap, which “scratched the side of the vehicle,” and then had to drive through about 3 metres of bushes on De La Bruere’s side before turning across a stretch of grass and coming out his driveway.
ONTARIO LICENCE PLATE
U.S. Border Patrol told CTV that the van was later found nearby.
“Agents responded to the area and a short time later located the vehicle abandoned in the nearby Walmart parking lot,” said spokesman Michael McCarthy.
De La Bruere’s neighbour’s wife took down their licence plate, which was from Ontario, he said.
When Canadian border guards later arrived to talk to the two neighbours, they told De La Bruere that while the car may be Canada-registered, it is registered to a driver with a California licence.
The Quebec RCMP, who monitor the border in between official crossings, have not yet responded to a request for comment, and the U.S. Border Patrol could not immediately provide more information.
It wasn’t clear if the car’s registered owner is the person captured on camera as the driver of the van, or if there was any indication the car was stolen.
LOCALS STILL PUZZLING
If the men in the car were Canadian or American, however, that raises more questions. Though the COVID-19 border shutdown is very strict for Americans trying to enter Canada, it’s less strict going south—Canadians can still enter the U.S. as long as they fly instead of driving.
And American citizens can still enter the U.S. whether driving or not.
Even if the travellers were Canadian, and they were determined to drive over the border rather than fly, that doesn’t explain why they ditched the car at a Walmart.
If they were smuggling illegal items in the car or were otherwise barred from entry, they were far from stealthy.
De La Bruere was scratching his head over it on Monday, hours before a U.S. border officer was scheduled to come to his home for another meeting on Monday night.
“They probably wanted to go back to California, maybe, and couldn’t get back through,” he suggested. “I'm not quite sure…I’d think they'd be able to fly over.”
It’s not the first time that people have tried to cross through his backyard. Once last year, another group of men drove up in a van before he came outside and waved them away. The area is also popular with touring cyclists, who sometimes bike across the border.
That sector is the “busiest northern border sector for illegal cross-border activity,” said U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in its statement.
It is nearly 300 miles long, and to patrol it, “agents use a combination of technology, intelligence and manpower. Border Patrol also relies on the assistance of the public to carry out our border security mission.”