One particularly violent method of smuggling drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border is known as port running. Port runners would load up to 500 pounds of drugs in cars or small trucks, making little attempt to disguise or conceal it, and then drive up to the inspection booth at selected border crossing points. If the inspector asked for identification, or took too long, or asked to look in the trunk, or attempted to pull the vehicle over for secondary examination, the driver would accelerate away aggressively, smashing other vehicles out of the way if necessary and running down the inspector or anyone else foolish enough to get in the way—never mind the damage to the vehicle, the load was much more valuable. Port runners picked crossing points where, within half a mile of clearing the border, they could be lost in the backstreets of a densely populated urban area, making pursuit and arrest virtually impossible.
In January 1995, Deputy Commissioner Mike Lane formed a team to tackle the problem. The team had plenty of ideas about what to do. Enforcement agents preferred pursuit, arrest, and seizures; inspectors focused more naturally on changing inspection procedures; the intelligence group wanted to study the smuggling organizations and take them down. But most of that they had been doing already, and it was not enough. Besides, their charge was not to make arrests or break down smuggling organizations (although they were allowed to do those things if it helped); they had been charged with eliminating the problem of port running.
Assume that you are on Commissioner Lane’s team. Before working on an action plan, the team must determine how it would assess performance. How would it know if it was making progress, if not by numbers of arrest and seizures? Obviously a decline in the number of port-running incidents would be good, but even that would be open to interpretation. What is your plan, and how will you evaluate success? What were the alternatives to your plan, and why were they rejected?
SOURCE: Malcolm K. Sparrow, the Regulatory Craft (Washington, DC: Brookings, 2000).