Four "strategic crossing points" that you can watch 24/7 on Blue Servo from home.
A group of crime-busting Texan sheriffs has launched an online surveillance system that makes it possible for the public to watch the Mexican border on CCTV 24 hours a day. Since its launch last Thursday... nothing has happened. So what's the point?
It's taken two years to get funding for the advanced neighbourhood watch scheme, resulting in a public-private partnership with an until now unheard of company called BlueServo and a generous $2m donation from the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. When a beady-eyed visitor spots something untoward, an alert is sent to The Texas Border Sheriff Coalition, who then decides whether to take action. The TBSC says that the scheme is in place to fight drug trafficking and crime on the border. And apart from a few murmurs of disagreement from the League of United Latin American Citizens, nobody seems to mind the implementation of the Texas Virtual Border Watch Program.
To be able to access images from the 12 cameras, you merely have to sign yourself up to the website. Once logged in, you can then alert the authorities to any activity you deem suspicious. Suspicious?! Not in the US apparently, where everyone seems to find the idea reasonably normal...
"This scheme's (…) less offensive than a wall"
Robert Garza Crosby is a Mexican citizen who's lived on the Texas – Mexico border his entire life. He campaigns against the construction of the wall between the two nations.
"I think this scheme's well within reason as far as security purposes go, and less offensive than a wall. Using cameras instead of building a wall would be a step down from the US authorities in my opinion. They'll be surveying the border where there's no official crossing and they're well within their rights to do so. However, I don't know why they deny that it's tied in with immigration."
"We have a pretty open border with our neighbours to the south and bad people could take advantage of that"
Donald L. Reay is the executive director of the Texas Virtual Border Watch Program.
"When someone reports suspicious activity, the message goes to a server, and is then passed on to designated locations, which decide if a response is certified. Designated locations are the sheriffs. In the first 48 hours of the project we had 200,000 alerts. I didn't see all of them but there was one case, for example, of movement in an isolated area. It was certainly out of the ordinary. It could have been foot traffic, going to check on a stash. This time... it turned out that we didn't find any wrongdoing there.
We haven't arrested anyone for human trafficking. If we encounter a person we suspect is undocumented, then we pass them on to the federal authorities. It's misinformation by our own media to say that we targeting immigration. The reason we've set up the system is to sustain our decreased crime rate due to increased patrol numbers. The cameras will have the same dissuasive effect as the patrols.
Of course there are people who will talk about the Big Brother thing, others who will talk about immigration, and others who will say it's voyeuristic. We know we'll get criticism. But we know we're doing this for the safety of the nation. We have a pretty open border with our neighbours to the south and bad people could take advantage of that. I'm sure there'll be vandalism attempts once they find out where the cameras are. That's why we're not telling them where they are! And that's not infringing on privacy - we're not looking in people's windows. These cameras are in wide open spaces where citizens asked for them."