VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There was a significant increase in the number of travellers at local border crossings in the month of June, compared to the same month last year.

New duty-free limits likely played a role, inspiring many Canadian shoppers to head South.

“The Pacific Highway District processed 581,000 travellers, which is an 18 per cent increase compared to the 475,000 travellers they processed over the same period last year” says Faith St. John with Canadian Border Services Agency.

Pacific Highway District includes Peace Arch, Pacific Highway, Abbotsford, and Aldergrove crossings, and the airports in Abbotsford and Boundary Bay.

The new duty-free limits took effect June 1st, greatly increasing the value of goods Canadians can bring back from the US.

The limit for a 24-hour stay quadrupled from $50 to $200, while the 48-hour limit doubled to $800.

But the increase in numbers at the border can’t be attributed to duty-free limits alone. St. John says there has been an upward trend in recent years, which also factored into the statistics for June.

“We’ve seen an increase of about 10 per cent, year-over-year, in the last couple of years” she says.

Last month, guards made 17 weapons seizures, including two grenades at the Aldergrove crossing on June 18th. The items were found in a utility trailer and two Americans chose to turn around and stay in the US, instead of entering Canada.

St. John says she doesn’t know if the grenades were real or fake, but the bomb squad had to be called.

One hundred and twenty eight other seizures were made under the customs act. These includes substances like drugs, and unusual items including an airplane.

A pilot told officers at the airport in Abbotsford that he planned to fly to Pitt Meadows and stay for the weekend.

“During his secondary examination, officers found text messages showing that the aircraft would be remaining in Canada indefinitely, because it was being sold to a Canadian” says St. John.

The plane has been seized, and a criminal investigation has been launched.

A Canadian was hit with $71,000 in administrative penalties, after not telling the truth about a quarter horse purchased in Texas.

“They declared to the officer that they paid $10,000 for it. However, during questioning, officers determined that they had actually paid $140,000,” recalls St. John.

She says duty on the animal would have been around $16,000 if the couple had been truthful about the price. They got their horse back after paying the fine.

Also in June, 596 people who tried to enter Canada were turned back at the border, including a couple of Americans with links to gangs.