Can a ‘Virtual Fence’ Help Seal U.S. Border?
A 28-mile electronic fence dubbed SBInet will soon be tested by the U.S. government in an effort to better protect the country’s borders. The fence is composed of nine, 98-ft.-tall towers spaced out along a section of the border just south of Tucson, AZ, featuring long-range video cameras, radar, and motion sensors.
The Department of Homeland Security says the virtual fence will cost around $8 billion through 2013, and may incorporate biometrics and air assets.
The equipment can focus on people from up to five miles away and on vehicles as far away as 15 miles.
The data from the towers will be transmitted to a command center as well as to several Customs and Border Patrol vehicles outfitted with special gear. Federal agents would be alerted to attempts of drug smugglers and others trying to cross into the country.
Some agents worry that drug cartels would buy or develop technology to thwart the virtual fence, while others say only law enforcement agents can be truly effective deterrents.
Boeing won an initial contract of $70 million in 2006 to start developing the system, which, if successful, will lead to the installation of hundreds more of the camera towers along the country’s borders with Mexico and Canada.
According to officials, an alarm will sound if a person get too close to a tower, and agents can remotely use a “hailer horn” to broadcast warnings at a volume as high as a jetliner taking off.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) from the Wall Street Journal (06/15/07); P. B1; Lunsford, J. Lynn; Block, Robert.