Texas shares a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, and technology is absolutely essential in protecting Texas and the nation from Mexican Cartels and their drug and human smuggling/trafficking operations.
Interoperable communications support unified patrol and tactical operations, including aviation and maritime assets with FLIR and night vision capability which increase detection and interdiction capabilities. The use of detection technologies such as video, cameras and sensors, can provide real-time information on exact locations of smuggling events.
Unfortunately, there are insufficient personnel resources to adequately cover the entire border region, therefore the effective use of detection technologies is a vital component in a multi-dimensional strategy.
The Texas Border Sheriffs have demonstrated that live video coverage in remote areas along the border can support interdiction operations. However, the Cartels quickly adjust and simply relocate their operations elsewhere. This is good for the Texas landowners in those areas but the Cartels are highly adaptive and they quickly exploit other areas along the border.
The Department uses similar video technology to support Ranger Recon tactical operations along the Rio Grande River as it increases surveillance capability. The challenge has been to dramatically increase the effective use of detection technology throughout the entire border region in a way that is affordable, flexible and fool-proof.
Operation Drawbridge provides that capability using low cost, commercially off the shelf technology that has been adapted to meet law enforcement needs and the needs of our close partners which includes the Texas Border Sheriffs, U.S. Border Patrol, and Texas land owners.
Wild-life cameras with motion detection and low light capability were modified to meet specific needs and satisfy certain criteria. Operation Drawbridge is fully operational today with hundreds of cameras located along the border.
These cameras are monitored 24 hours, seven days a week by the Texas Fusion Center, the Texas Border Security Operations Center (augmented by Texas State Guard and Texas National Guard soldiers), DPS Communications facilities, as well as collaborative monitoring with U.S. Border Patrol facilities. Detection alerts are sent simultaneously to the Border Patrol, the Sheriff’s Office, the Fusion Center, and other border law enforcement partners by a sophisticated software alert system created in-house by Texas DPS Information Technology (IT) personnel to further lower operational costs. At approximately $300 per camera, they provide a high tech capability at a low tech cost.
Operation Drawbridge and its partnership with the U.S. Border Patrol and the border Sheriffs have made a strategic and sustained impact on Cartel drug and human smuggling. Since the inception of the program, through the end of December 2016, Operation Drawbridge has been successful in detecting more than 275,000 criminal exploitations of the Texas-Mexico Border, and has directly resulted in the apprehension of more than 133,000 individuals. In addition, Operation Drawbridge has been responsible for the seizure of more than 182 tons of marijuana.