CBP’s Use of Advanced Technology to Combat Illegal Activity Continues
WESLACO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection said an aerial view offers a better sight to combat illegal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border.
CBP Air and Marine Operations personnel in McAllen said they’re tasked with spotting and helping halt crime in the Rio Grande Valley.
AMO Air Interdiction Agent Mattew Noble said work for the agency has increased over the last 10 years when it comes to national security, drug trafficking, and human smuggling.
Noble said the Valley’s layout lends itself for a quick escape by those aiding illegal activity.
“When someone crosses into the United States, they’re sometimes less than a quarter mile to a road. So, it's within minutes that they can get into a vehicle or anything else. It's imperative that we have the response capability that we can with the helicopter,” he said.
Agents said the use of cameras on helicopters, infrared software and collaboration with Border Patrol agents on the ground is often used in unison to stop illegal trafficking.
Noble said thermal sensors are also essential in tracking anyone trying to hide in the dark of night. He added people shouldn’t worry about their privacy because the devices are “not as invasive as you think, it can't look into houses, it can't look through windows.”
Valley resident Ricardo Quintanilla said AMO helicopters haven’t been part of his life. He's lived in the same home overlooking the river for 30 years.
“The helicopters bother the children because they fly around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. The hour doesn’t matter to them. So, my nieces and nephews are bothered by the noise and usually wake up crying,” he said.
But when asked about invasion of privacy, Quintanilla said he isn’t bothered. He said he doesn’t mind the helicopters and likes the safety aspect they provide.
AMO is currently seeking out pilots and personnel to fill vacancies.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ordered for an additional 500 Air and Marine agents. Noble said the additional hundreds of agents are due to a projected loss in staff.
The agency currently has over 1,800 personnel.
Pilots are mandated to retire at the age of 57 and are expected to serve for 20 years. Veterans with a qualifying campaign badge on their DD214 or VA disability can qualify for an age waiver.
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