DHS adding cameras to borders

Customs and Border Protection

The Homeland Security Department is planning to add remote video surveillance camera systems at the border between Canada and the United States and has a procurement strategy in mind to do it swiftly, officials said April 21.

Homeland Security plans to add 90 systems along the northern border as part of the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System, according to Mario Villarreal, spokesman for the department's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. There already are 235 surveillance systems scattered along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada to help detect illegal movements of people, goods and weapons.

"We have had this type of technology, but we are expanding it," Villarreal said.

Furthermore, DHS issued a notice saying it intended use existing General Service Administration schedules to buy the technology.

Using GSA schedules will enable the "systems to be purchased and in place in a short time," said Larry Allen executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "It shrinks the procurement cycle."

The camera technology is a "great tool," Villarreal said, and is used in combination with about 14,000 sensors buried in the ground to keep track of movement across the northern and southern borders.

The surveillance systems can help detect smuggling day or night. When a sensor goes off, a camera can be remotely pointed in its direction, allowing border patrol workers to see what is happening.

DHS is working to close many of the gaps along U.S. borders. In another recent border initiative, the department announced an agreement April 9 to enhance security for rail service coming into the United States from Canada.

The agreement detailed how goods being transported by rail will be targeted and screened and gave guidelines for collecting advance electronic manifest information before shipments cross the U.S. border. Canadian rail authorities also are planning to install imaging and radiation-detection equipment at seven border crossings.

"The rail security program we have developed is a vital component of our strategy to keep America and the American people safe, as well as to facilitate the flow of trade between Canada and the United States," said Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.

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