Texas sheriffs use technology for surveillance

A group of Texas sheriffs has launched a streaming video border camera surveillance system on the Web to enlist public involvement to reduce crime and illegal entries along the border of Texas and Mexico.

The system started Nov. 20, and is an extension of an online border camera project carried out by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and law enforcement groups in November 2006 that generated 27 million Web site hits from the public.

The Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition joined social network company BlueServo Inc. to go online with the new Texas Virtual Border Watch Program. Members of the public can visit the Web site, view live streaming video footage from cameras along the  international border and report suspicious activity.

The state provided a grant of $2 million for the project, and the sheriffs hope that a large number of hits on the site will generate advertising revenue to help cover expenses.

The sheriffs and BlueServo “anticipate that a high volume of traffic to the Web site will generate advertising revenue to defray the infrastructure and costs of operating the Texas Virtual Border Watch Program, which would enable a substantial increase in the number of cameras deployed,” according to a news release.

The sheriffs’ goal is to create a virtual “neighborhood watch” along the border by asking people to participate. There were more than 200,000 registered participants in the 2006 demonstration, who forwarded 2,780 reports of suspicious activity.

"It is a well-known fact that public involvement in community watch programs reduces crime," Donald L. Reay, executive director of the sheriffs’ group, said in the news release. "Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Border Sheriffs recognize the value of leveraging technology, public/private partnerships and the public to protect Texans."

The organization is comprised of 20 sheriffs from border communities and was formed in 2005.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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