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It's the Custom

February 21, 1993

I regret Michael Kidby's unfortunate impression of the federal clearance process at LAX (Letters, Jan. 24). During the last 10 years, customs has revolutionized its inspection process to the point where it is transparent to the vast majority of travelers. We have adopted the red/green self-selection process seen throughout Europe. Roving inspectors at the baggage carousels, along with canines, screen passengers while they wait for their bags. Typically 85%-90% of an incoming flight will not stand in a customs line for processing.

A relatively small number of passengers will always be required to undergo a customs secondary inspection and occasionally pay duty. Despite our best efforts, delays may occur during peak periods. However, as long as people smuggle or try to cheat the system, some form of screening will always be necessary. We are proud of our overall record at LAX, where arrivals have doubled in the last five years and passenger processing times have been drastically reduced at all three international arrival facilities.

JOHN H. HEINRICH

District Director

Department of the Treasury

U.S. Customs Service

Los Angeles

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