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White Paper: Border Security: The Other Story
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White Paper: Border Security: The Other Story

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Common tactics to circumvent illegal border crossing, and effective deterrents of law enforcement to combat them. …

Common tactics to circumvent illegal border crossing, and effective deterrents of law enforcement to combat them.

When border security comes to mind, people typically think of long lines at border crossing stations, fence lines, and the reported apprehension of illegal immigrants. Although those quintessential images accurately depict daily life at the border, they certainly don’t tell the whole story.

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  • 1. wh i te pa p e r Border Security: The Other Story Common tactics to circumvent illegal border crossing, and effective deterrents of law enforcement to combat themby Jake LahmannVice President of TechnologySupercircuits, Inc.Issued May 3, 2011 When border security comes to mind, people typically think of long lines at border crossing stations, fence lines, and the reported apprehension of illegal immigrants. Although those quintessential images accurately depict daily life at the border, they certainly don’t tell the whole story. Page 1 of 5 Supercircuits 11000 N. MoPac Expressway #300 Austin, Texas 78759 1-800-335-9777 Trusted Video Security Solutions since 1989© Copyright 2011 Supercircuits, Inc www.supercircuits.com
  • 2. During the 1990s in the San Diego area, a morning A traditional method but an increasingly risky one southbound commute toward the border routinely for smugglers, concealing contraband and illegal met with the sight of hundreds of illegal aliens passengers is still par for the course. To mitigate walking north. Today, a person taking the same the risk, smugglers are continuously changing how commute would be hard-pressed to see any illegal and where they place the contraband. Smugglers foot traffic. are placing migrants in unimaginable locations, such as engine compartments, dashboards or faux Border SeCurity FenCe walls of tractor trailers. Narcotics are typically con- Along with the cealed in these areas, too, but they also are stored increased number in anything from car tires and fuel tanks to under- of agents, the carriage components. 60- mile stretch of near-impervious tunnels border fence has Another way dramatically cartels are circum- stemmed the flow of illegal traffic into the San venting border Diego area. security efforts is No doubt, the successes in the San Diego area tunneling. From should be celebrated, and many residents, no fiscal 2008 to 2009, longer tackling the large influx, are doing just that. the number of However, this same success has caused both the tunnels crossing the border increased 62 percent, bad and good guys to change their tactics. It has according to the Department of Justice. No solid prompted smugglers to operate in fewer, more- estimates exist to determine the value of these remote areas, use violence and engage in more tunnels to the cartels, but it’s clear that they provide elaborate strategies. easy entrance to the United States for thousands of undocumented immigrants and millions of dollars On Dec. 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian in smuggled narcotics. Terry was killed in southern Arizona by five armed bandits. According to agency statistics, Terry was By sea the third agent killed in the line of duty this past A scenario once common only to southern Florida, year; 34 have been killed in the past 15 years. abandoned boats are now popping up on the Terry was assigned to a specialized unit of the CBP shoreline of southern California. In other cases to counter cartel-related smuggling operations where the boats are being recovered, people are of people and drugs, and bandit activity where taking U.S. boats across the border under the guise criminal elements are taking advantage of migrants of fishing trips only to leave the boat with cartel and smugglers alike. So, both Terry’s mission and members and then later meet it with its cargo at a passing at the hands of bandits are an icon of the California boat ramp. evolving and violent aspects of the border. Below are examples of smuggling activities on the rise. interior foot traffic Another improvement for border security is inte- Vehicle concealments rior border checks on major thoroughfares. Page 2 of 5 Supercircuits 11000 N. MoPac Expressway #300 Austin, Texas 78759 1-800-335-9777 Trusted Video Security Solutions since 1989© Copyright 2011 Supercircuits, Inc www.supercircuits.com
  • 3. These checkpoints are proving successful at nab- cartels will simply threaten violence against a bing loads of contraband. However, crafty smug- person’s family members to gain their service. glers are unloading migrants at predetermined As with mob operations, members of cartels are drop-off locations just prior to the checkpoints. not released from service and continually operate The migrants then travel on foot to a pickup point with the knowledge for retrieval by the smugglers. that they or their Bribes and blackmail family members will be killed for leaving. In much the same way intelligence agents operated during the Cold War, cartels do their homework Gaps exploited by identifying proper agents responsible for key Just 37 miles east points of entry. They later seek out how they might of San Diego is bribe or even blackmail the agents for cooperation. the Carrizo Gorge Railway, which runs north and Similar to the cartels, an inside asset means easy south and handles both passenger trains and cargo traveling for the cartels. crossing to and from Mexico. The railway’s border intelligence crossing is accomplished via a tunnel. To allow for normal passage of trains, this tunnel is unsecured, In addition to securing and using inside informa- which makes for an easy point of entry for the tion, some cartel members’ sole function is to smugglers. gather intelligence on border security operations. Some forms of intelligence-gathering can be as Carrizo tunnel simple as monitoring points of entry and feed- On the southern side of the fence, this tunnel is ing to smugglers real-time information about the considered property of the local controlling cartel, best lanes to use. Others include diligent efforts which guards the tunnel with armed members to to identify undercover vehicles, habits and agency keep out competing cartels. Migrants wishing to capabilities. make passage must first seek permission and pay a fee. Staging houses The cartel’s use of the Carrizo Gorge tunnel in- Once inside the border, smugglers will stage both cludes foot traffic as well as “rail speeders” that al- contraband and migrants. The smugglers’ preferred low for deep and quick interior penetration. These buildings are normal, everyday houses in quiet rail speeders are constructed using material such as neighborhoods. bed frames, lawn tractor wheels and engines. Rail Kidnapping and threats speeders can operate to speeds beyond 50 mph and as they launch at night leave little opportunity for Especially in southern Arizona, cartels are kidnap- border security agents to know the passage oc- ping people at rates estimated as high as one per curred or apprehend them. The use of rail speeders day. Cartels are using victims for the purpose of de- is yet another sign of how innovative and deter- manding straight cash payments from relatives and mined smugglers are in finding alternate means to also for conscripting the relatives’ service in smug- traffic their goods. gling operations. Sometimes, in lieu of kidnapping, Page 3 of 5 Supercircuits 11000 N. MoPac Expressway #300 Austin, Texas 78759 1-800-335-9777 Trusted Video Security Solutions since 1989© Copyright 2011 Supercircuits, Inc www.supercircuits.com
  • 4. the reSPonSe Marine operations Given the progression in the smugglers’ tactics, In addition to intercepting the illegal flow of un- agencies tasked with securing the border are evolv- documented migrants and narcotics, CBP plays a ing as well. vital role in providing a strong defense against ter- No longer are agencies limited to uniformed of- rorism. The agency employs 250 vessels from 80 lo- ficers creating a visible deterrent and a reactionary cations throughout the world. In 2009, it increased force. Agencies are developing unique attributes investments by establishing 11 new marine units. and taking the best of notes from other law en- SWAt operations forcement agencies and the military. CBP has continued to increase its tactical capabili- investigations ties through its SWAT team known as BORTAC, A little-known but more notable change in recent which has been in existence since the 1980s. years is the increased use of investigation teams. BORTAC team members fulfill the role of a typi- These teams are conducting interdiction and denial cal SWAT team by conducting raids and providing activities similar to the way the DEA fights drug specialized assistance to mass disturbances. With rings and the FBI undermines organized criminal their specialized training and many members hav- elements. ing experience in military special operations, the teams also are used for long-duration field surveil- Seeking to eradicate cartel assets and other large lance and enforcement of critical traffic zones. illegal enterprises in the interior, CBP has formed investigative branches such as the Smuggling Politically speaking, it’s probably safe to say that no Interdiction Group. Operations include undercover one has the answer. Will border fence construction missions, monitoring interstate traffic, locating continue? Will additional agents and vital fund- drop-off points and stage houses, and stemming ing be added? Will there be a relaxed immigration the flow of southbound cash and weapons. policy? What is clear is that no matter the course, there Airborne operations will be a continued drive toward using technology- In 2005, CBP commissioned the Office of Air and borne force multiplication tools that drive costs Marine, which included 260 aircraft. Today, the down and increase the flow of information and OAM operates 290 unique aircraft modified not response. only to meet the security needs but also for the medical aid of injured migrants in remote areas. thermal Taking benefits of airborne enforcement one step Already seeing use in further, CBP is now using one of the military’s border security operations, favorite tools, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). thermal imaging devices The UAV is delivering the benefits of force mul- will likely experience an tiplication with long loiter capability, stealthy even greater use. In recent operation and high-end thermal imaging. CBP is years, the cost of thermal operating seven UAVs, and trends indicate future imaging technology has purchases. dropped significantly, while costs for resolution, optics, Page 4 of 5 Supercircuits 11000 N. MoPac Expressway #300 Austin, Texas 78759 1-800-335-9777 Trusted Video Security Solutions since 1989© Copyright 2011 Supercircuits, Inc www.supercircuits.com
  • 5. storage features and durability have increased. Just During the recent decade, several border surveil- a few years ago, handheld imagers retailed at lance initiatives and projects did not live out their $11,000 per unit, but today they’re available for full potential. One of the weak areas in an initiative nearly half that price. of that scale is developing and maintaining a reli- able, standalone wireless network. thermal imager Also during the recent decade, commercially avail- A single handheld imager in the hands of an agent able wireless infrastructure has become prolific, tremendously shifts the odds of spotting smug- secure and reliable. glers. Unlike other technologies, handheld imag- ers do not require that the target move in order to Additionally, wireless networks have transformed detect it. A target under view of a thermal device from simply carrying voice to now providing data puts off a far greater heat signature than normal for mobile computing. environments do, leaving little chance of successful Law enforcement across the country is quickly em- concealment. bracing the ease of access to commercial wireless In many environments, thermal imagers are so networks. It allows even small enforcement teams sensitive that fleeing suspects’ footprints and dis- to deploy surveillance platforms both overtly and carded contraband are plainly visible. covertly to monitor in real-time from anywhere. It’s a tough job allowing the flow of legitimate traf- intelligent video surveillance fic while keeping the border secure, being in the The mere presence political crosshairs and keeping pace with evolv- of surveillance ing targets. It is necessary for readers to become cameras delivers informed about the increasing needs of border se- force multiplica- curity and how they might lend assistance through tion on its own by ideas and technology. allowing one After all, everyone is affected by border security, person to monitor whether they know it or not. multiple sites quickly. However, progressive busi- nesses and institutions worldwide are now harness- ing the power of video analytics, which seems to be a viable tool for border security operations. Unlike traditional sensing devices, video analyt- ics devices are able to discern between benign and nefarious activity using programmed thresholds. Such devices have already proven invaluable in Israeli border operations. With analytic devices in place, agents’ attention can be devoted to alarms, rather than serving as the detector. Wireless infrastructure Page 5 of 5 Supercircuits 11000 N. MoPac Expressway #300 Austin, Texas 78759 1-800-335-9777 Trusted Video Security Solutions since 1989© Copyright 2011 Supercircuits, Inc www.supercircuits.com