Texas wants you to watch the border

Dec. 26, 2008

Texas is at it again. The state seems to believe that if they can successfully put video surveillance cameras up and down their borders, the their concerned citizens (and wannabes from other states, too) will spend their free time watching the video to see if they can spot illegal immigration and border crimes.

 SIW reported how in 2006, Texas Governor Rick Perry was pushing for a $5 million system. Before that concept, there was even an earlier idea called Texas Border Watch, which was just a month-long pilot. I remember that pilot because I recently found an old bookmark to it, and it said that the pilot was over and had attracted millions of hits to the site. So, finally the second or third stage of that project is coming around. The $5 million was cut back to $2 million, and now that the security cameras are online for the world as "Blue Servo", the good people of Texas have netted ...

 ...drumroll please...

...one single arrest! That's right. After 2 years and $2 million dollars and 2 months of live video, you get a single arrest of some pot smuggler. The new math in Texas: 2+2+2=1.

On one hand, I don't think Texas is getting their ROI on this project (The Houston Chronicle also doesn't see the ROI yet), but on the other hand, they've created a model for monitoring that no one else has tried. On their website for Texas Border Watch/BlueServo, you get descriptions of what to look for in each camera image: "Camera 86: This river area is known for illegal drug activity. If you see large number of people in boats moving along the water and or objects in the water please report this activity."

I'll hold judgement for a bit longer, but unless they start to see real arrests being made, I'd have to wonder if $2 million wouldn't have been spent better on real enforcement officers rather than cameras to be watched by web junkies.