HomeNewsBriefUS Tests Surveillance Equipment Along Mexico Border
BRIEF

US Tests Surveillance Equipment Along Mexico Border

US/MEXICO BORDER / 31 AUG 2012 BY CLAIRE O'NEILL MCCLESKEY EN

The US Border Patrol has begun testing new surveillance devices used in Iraq and Afghanistan, hoping they will serve as effective tools to identify migrants and drug smugglers along the US-Mexico border.

The US Border Patrol is trying out high-tech, camera-equipped surveillance balloons, or aerostats, along remote stretches of the southwest border. A spokesperson for the Border Patrol told the Associated Press that although the airborne cameras can see into Mexico, the balloons are intended only to help agents patrol the US side.

The balloons, which are on loan from the Department of Defense, have been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to detect potential attackers around military bases.

InSight Crime Analysis

The use of aerostats by the Border Patrol are part of a larger effort by the US government to recycle equipment from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along the US-Mexico border. Over the next several months, the Border Patrol has said it plans to test a range of other surveillance equipment provided by the Defense Department.

On the one hand, using surplus equipment, rather than constructing or purchasing expensive new technology, is certainly a less costly border control strategy than the one that led to failed initiatives such as a $15 million a mile “virtual fence.” The surveillance balloons, which can stay aloft for fourteen days, may prove to be a good alternative to drones, which are significantly more expensive to operate. Using such airborne surveillance equipment should also mean that the US does not have to deploy more manpower -- including Border Patrol agents or members of the National Guard -- along the frontier.

Still, the use of the aerostats does raise questions about the increasing use of equipment from the Department of Defense in patrolling the borders. As argued by a report released in April by the Washington Office on Latin America, April 2012, a greater security build-up along the US-Mexico border will only yield diminishing returns, due to the overall lack of spillover violence and decrease in illegal immigration. There are also some signs that drug traffickers are turning to methods that circumnavigate even the most sophisticated security equipment, such as bribing US truck drivers to smuggle illicit shipments.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHAPITOS / 9 AUG 2022

Little clarity has followed the brazen assassination of a local police chief in northern Mexico.

HUMAN RIGHTS / 27 JUL 2021

Reports of migrants dying and disappearing in the US-Mexico borderlands are becoming increasingly common, propelled in part by a restrictive…

BARRIO 18 / 30 JAN 2023

While thousands of gang members have been arrested in El Salvador, some may have moved their activities to Mexico.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…