Drug Czar: Surveillance Technology Needed to Curb Flow of Mexican Drugs

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun evaluation of commercial-off-the-shelf technology.
Publish date:
Updated on

The top U.S.-antidrug official says surveillance technology has played a significant role in the progress made at stemming the flow of narcotics into the United States from Mexico.

White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske—also known as the “drug czar”—cites significant progress made in several areas at curbing drug smuggling from Mexico in the report, the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy Implementation Update.

The areas covered it the report are: border security and law enforcement technology; stemming the outbound flow of illegal cash and weapons; interdiction at and between ports of entry; countering smuggling in the air and maritime domains; investigations and prosecutions, intelligence collection and information sharing; and enhancing cooperation with Mexico on counterdrug efforts.

"Drug use in America drives instability and violence in Mexico," Kerlikowske said in a written statement. "That is why this administration has committed increased resources to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States, at the same time we are deploying unprecedented levels of personnel, infrastructure, and technology to secure the Southwest border."

Chapter 8 of the report is focused on the technology used to facilitate drug interdiction, and it says: “In 2009, the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy placed special emphasis on the development and fielding of emerging and state-of-the-art technologies to further Southwest Border counternarcotics efforts as part of broader efforts underway to bring operational control to the border. These technologies include state-of-the-art detection systems for contraband interdiction; officer safety technologies; sensor, data fusion, and data sharing systems; communications and intelligence technologies; and wide-area surveillance for the detection of small maritime vessels.”

Highlights of the surveillance and video technology listed in the report are:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun evaluation of commercial-off-the-shelf technology that will enable frontline personnel to identify multiple threats with one set of equipment operating on portable power.

The United States is working with Mexico to deploy appropriate and effective non-intrusive inspection technology along the border. Mexico currently has 52 “vehicle and cargo inspection system: (VACIS) units in place, and funding has been provided for ion scanners and mobile gamma ray systems, the report says.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has implemented common operating picture technology for tracking targets and agent safety devices. DHS and ONDCP are partnering to develop and implement “Project Roadrunner,” an integrated license plate reader recognition system. Project Roadrunner was conceived to target both north- and southbound drug trafficking and associated illegal activity along the Southwest Border. Under this partnership, ONDCP will provide DHS with previously-purchased fixed and mobile cameras—expanding DHS‘s existing capabilities at minimal cost.


Image placeholder title

GAO: Maybe SBINet Needs Fresh Focus

Delays and performance shortfalls mean border patrol officers are relying on outdated equipment instead of the high-tech, integrated web of technology the initiative has promised.

SBInet Starts Construction in Arizona

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had “a reasonable level of engineering confidence” in the SBInet technology to give the go-ahead to begin the buildout.