McALLEN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Department of Public Safety plans to deploy about 400 motion-triggered cameras as another tool to monitor the state's 1,254-mile border with Mexico.
About 20 to 30 of the small, portable cameras have been tested and proven effective for more than a year in rural areas along the border, said DPS director Steve McCraw.
The cameras are an attempt to leverage technology because "there's insufficient law enforcement ... to be everywhere all the time," McCraw said. "It's always been a matter of cost."
The cameras can take series of still photographs when people walk by and then email the images to accounts that DPS selects, including law enforcement fusion centers or even the ranchers on whose land the cameras sit. Those monitoring the cameras then notify the nearest authorities to respond.
The $300 cameras have infrared capability so they work at night and run off batteries that last about two months, he said.
Images from the cameras have already led Border Patrol to apprehend about 150 illegal immigrants this year, McCraw said.
A sample of photographs provided by DPS show groups of people walking away from the camera, many carrying small backpacks. Looking at other photographs McCraw described what he identified as backpacks carrying drug loads.
"It's tested. It works. It's our goal to expand this as much as possible," he said.
While state funding will cover the cost of about 400 cameras, McCraw was hopeful some landowners would pay for their own cameras, which DPS would monitor.
McCraw said he recently met with ranchers who were enthusiastic about the program. "I've got a stack of their cards," he said.
The apprehensions McCraw said the cameras have produced already outpace the state's earlier experiment with border cameras.
In 2006, Gov. Rick Perry launched a camera pilot program in which live video feeds were accessible to anyone through the Internet. Eventually more than $2 million in federal grants went to a border sheriffs coalition for the project, which never approached its goals for cameras installed or apprehensions made.