Border Patrol adds artificial intelligence cameras to its security arsenal

Technology helps border agents identify threats and rescue injured migrants abandoned by smugglers

VAN HORN, Texas (Border report) – Disoriented and hungry, the young woman from Guatemala slowly got out of a US Border Patrol vehicle and sat down on a metal bench next to a cinder block wall.

An officer asked him to remove dirty camouflage pants and shirt while an interpreter inside the border patrol station questioned him in Spanish.

“Before they left you, where did they tell you to go?” he asked as she pulled off two of the three layers of clothing she was wearing. “They told you to go to (Interstate) 10, do you know what ’10’ is?”

“No,” said 18-year-old Dina in a soft voice barely above a whisper.

She was rescued by a helicopter crew from the Wiley Mountains east of Van Horn, where she spent a day and night alone after injuring her foot. The group of 26 migrants she was traveling with took off without her when they spotted an approaching Border Patrol vehicle.

“I turned on my phone and asked (the smuggler) what I should do. He told me to walk to a mountain, that another (smuggler) would help me. But there was nobody. I called back but he stopped taking my calls and texts,” Dina told Border Report, declining to give her last name.

A nursing assistant took her inside the station. She was to undergo a medical examination and taste food for the first time in three days.

Over the past five months, border agents have participated in 6,630 search and rescue migrants along the southwestern border. They hope the newly deployed technology will not only help them catch drug smugglers and smugglers, but also provide life-saving assistance to those at risk.

“Anyone who is late gets left behind,” said Jose Aleman, officer in charge of the U.S. Border Patrol post in Van Horn. “They don’t know the area, so it’s easy to get lost; one mountain resembles the other. They can turn around. We are constantly saving people and finding people dying from the elements. »

Border Patrol Agent Jose Aleman, Senior Van Horn Station Agent, examines a backpack abandoned by a migrant in the desert. (Border report)

At least 650 people died last year crossing the US-Mexico border, succumbing to extreme heat, cold or hunger, according to the The international organization for migration.

“Smart” cameras at work at the border

Border Patrol agents east of El Paso use artificial intelligence cameras and other technology to detect and rescue migrants in mountainous and desert terrain. The cameras detect landscape changes and track individuals and groups in the desert.

“They were a game changer, a force multiplier,” Aleman said. “They detect everything in his area, give us the exact location of people passing through here. (They) reduce response time, reduce apprehension time so that we can quickly move on to other areas where activity is detected.

the said stand-alone watchtowerscoupled with distress beacons, metal signs with calling instructions and helicopters have helped rescue more than two dozen migrants near Van Horn in recent months.

The cameras have a 3 mile visual radius and night vision technology. Mounted on 33ft metal poles, they can also tell officers if someone in a large group may be carrying a weapon.

Night vision AI camera technology. (photo courtesy of CBP)

The towers automatically switch from one to the other if a group leaves the field of view of a camera. With a rotating mount, the cameras radar is always in scanning mode.

The towers and beacons are solar powered. Many are on private land.

Close-up of AI cameras. (photo from border report)

Aleman said the Border Patrol has received support from ranchers and other landowners concerned about increased migrant smuggling. The problem is not so much criminal activity as acts of self-preservation such as obtaining water by cutting pipes leading from reservoirs to cattle feeding areas and sneaking into the sheds of the firm to protect against the elements.

“There is good cooperation with the community. There is good cooperation with other law enforcement agencies like the (Texas) Department of Public Safety and local sheriffs’ offices,” he said.

Aleman, a 22-year Border Patrol veteran, has seen his share of migrant deaths over the years. He spoke of the recovery of five bodies in the desert after a snowstorm last year and the rescue of a middle-aged woman whose fingers turned black from frostbite.

But none were as dramatic as a man he found over a fence at a ranch within sight of Interstate 10, where someone might have been able to provide help, he said. he declares.

Smuggling networks, a “web of lies”

Border Patrol officials like Aleman lay these deaths on the feet of transnational criminal organizations and the smugglers they employ.

“They sell them on trips and lie to them at every turn. They place them in hiding places filled with 100 other people, exposed to COVID and other diseases. Some get greedy, and it turns into rapture; they hold them back until their relatives send more money than they agreed,” the senior agent said. “And once here, they only care about who can walk and who they’re going to get paid for.”

Other dangers include transporting a dozen or more individuals in a single high-speed sedan on busy Texas roads. These vehicles are known to overturn, injuring and killing occupants.

Dina, an 18-year-old migrant from Guatemala, talks to Border Report’s Julian Resendiz after being rescued by Mountain Border Patrol near Van Horn, Texas. (photo from border report)

Travel is particularly dangerous for women, who often tell their doctors that they have been sexually assaulted.

“We understand that migrants do what they think they should do. But we hope the message will get across as things really are. It’s not worth it,” he said.

Dina, the rescued migrant from Guatemala, said she shared with her parents the news of the sudden end of her trip. “They are very sad,” she said, adding that they had incurred a debt of $3,250 to bring her to the United States.

But when asked about her plans, she said she hoped to join her sister, find work in the United States and help her family economically in Guatemala. With the smugglers unlikely to waive the fee, she may not have much choice left.

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