What do you think of this idea??
Volunteers keep eye on border using their Web cams
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 4, 2008 12:00 AM
It's not just the government doing high-tech surveillance of the border anymore. And it doesn't take a huge defense contractor and a satellite, either.
Two volunteer groups, one a splinter from the well-known Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, have cameras in Cochise County pointed at the Mexican border up to 200 yards away and at busy smuggling routes.
Anyone with a fast-enough Internet connection can sign up to work the cameras remotely, although one of the groups first submits volunteers to a background check. The volunteers report any sightings of smugglers or immigrants to the Border Patrol. advertisement
The small-scale operations may seem quaint, but the border groups maintain that their cameras, which transmit wirelessly to the Web, have led to the arrest of hundreds of border crossers in recent months.
The efforts highlight how, in the groups' view, a fairly simple system can work as well as the government's approach, which is a sophisticated, high-tech satellite-surveillance operation called Project 28.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's "virtual fence" experiment was delayed eight months by glitches, and questions linger about how well the $20 million system works. Sen. John McCain called the project "a disgrace"; another Republican congressman introduced a bill to scrap the experiment.
"We are building a model that already works better than Project 28," said Jon Healy, founder of the TechnoPatriots, a commercial venture and offshoot of the Minuteman group.
Federal officials said they haven't seen the volunteer cameras and couldn't comment.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff insists that Project 28 near Sasabe is effective, although contractors are refining how the 28-mile pilot system of cameras and sensors beams data to Border Patrol agents via satellite.
"I think this Project 28 will be good once we get to tweak it," Border Patrol spokesman Ramon Rivera said. "We want to see who's crossing the border, what they're carrying and if they have a mole on their face."
The non-profit American Border Patrol, based in Sierra Vista, launched remote-controlled cameras on the border in 2005, allowing armchair volunteers to log in and view the border from the safety of their homes. Volunteers are given a background check before being allowed to work the cameras.
Since November, the non-profit TechnoPatriots, based in Palominas, has operated a long-range camera that can be remotely panned, tilted and zoomed, plus a thermal camera that monitors the border by night. Volunteers must pay $10 when they sign up on the Web site. Healy said he plans to get more cameras, sound monitors, ground sensors and software that weaves it all together.
His group says its volunteers have reported 160 sightings to the Border Patrol, resulting in 116 arrests.
The Border Patrol could not confirm the number because it does not track whether callers belong to such groups. But agents said they are grateful for any help from the public.
TechnoPatriots invites volunteers to sign up for 30-minute shifts to watch the Web, manipulate the cameras and report illegal border crossings. The volunteer groups say they can do the job more cheaply than Project 28 because their systems use high-speed wireless Internet, not satellites.
"If I had the money Boeing had, there would not be one single person walking through there undetected," said Mike Christie, operations director for American Border Patrol.
By day, the cameras show the windswept beige grass and brush landscape of Cochise County, punctuated occasionally by movements of people on smuggling trails. By night, volunteers watch a dark, murky image for the ghostly shape of humans emitting body heat.
On a limited scale, the groups' efforts parallel those of the Border Patrol. For years, Border Patrol dispatchers have forwarded information from agents' observations, static cameras and sensors to roving agents via radio. The government's Secure Border Initiative, including Project 28, will add a network of cameras and sensors to help agents better know the situation in advance.
The virtual fence is a string of towers that beam signals via satellite into the trucks of agents and the command center. The idea is for agents and supervisors to have common, precise information and to move cameras remotely to get a better read on border crossers.
The problem is agents still find themselves in dead spots, and for months, government contractor Boeing Corp. had to work out the kinks in the relays.
After accepting Boeing's work, Homeland Security agreed to pay the $20 million contract even though government auditors and Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar testified to Congress that Project 28 didn't meet the 95 percent detection standards. Homeland Security officials overseeing the project said the next phase will be pushed back three years as Boeing refines the technology.
Still, officials insist the system is effective. Project 28 has resulted in 2,400 arrests in its first month of operation, agency spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. Border Patrol agents say it already gives them improved capability. Rivera said the technology can distinguish people from animals, count them and give agents a good idea if they are armed. The trick now is to get that information piped directly to their patrol trucks.
Homeland Security went to Boeing looking to cover communication dead spots via satellite. Rivera acknowledges that wireless would work well but would also mean persuading property owners to allow easements to build and maintain cell towers.
Based on the prices and ranges of equipment bought by volunteer groups, if cameras and cell towers were installed to cover the entire 1,950-mile border, it would cost roughly $40 million to $250 million. The government's technology plan for the border is estimated at $1.2 billion.
I think i will join them
Asked By: deport_scum - 4/4/2008