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Texas virtual border patrol goes on-line

Published 13 December 2006

After a one-month stress test, state proclaims effort a success; more than 200,000 register to watch for illegal immigrants on their desktops; one major arrest reported; technological and contracting issues hamper full $5 million roll-out

Border security update: Texas’s planned $5 million “virtual border watch” program underwent a test-run this month, although at a smaller scale than originally planned. Intended to digitally deputize residents to spot illegal immigrants and report them to the authorities from the safety of their home offices, the program is a major (or at least the most talked about) state border security effort. Legal and contracting issues, however, have stalled the roll-out, and so the recent “stress test” networked only eight cameras and cost only $210,000. Nevertheless, the program’s Web site (www.texasborderwatch.com) received 27.9 million hits and 221,562 viewers registered to participate. The effort even led to a few arrests, including a major drug bust.

The state initially intended to debut the system in July, but legal problems prevented an initial plan to piggyback the work on top of an existing AT&T contract. In the meantime, technical specifications for the project have been delayed as technological concerns are ironed out — the test run being an active part of that proccess. Officials are considering installing 50-200 cameras at thirteen “primary-threat” border crossing points and sixteen less active locations. Cameras also will operate along highways, at rest stops, and near inspection stations. About 30 cameras will remain in one place, while most will be mobile, shifting to areas where illegal activity has been reported.

-read more in Sig Christenson’s San Antonio Express-News report