Sheriffs from around the country were granted a behind-the-scenes look at security operations at the Southern border.
Law enforcement officers traveled to Roma, TX Friday to observe a Tethered Aerostat Radar System.
That military-grade security system gives Border Patrol agents a bird’s eye view of the Rio Grande Valley.
Alberto Olivares is a Special Operations Supervisor, and cited statistical improvements in tracking capabilities.
“This Aerostat has assisted Border Patrol in Rio Grande City by providing a higher level of surveillance and detection and increasing our situational awareness,” Olivares said, “Thereby allowing us to appropriately respond to threats as they’re crossing the river and even before they cross the river.”
The large white balloon was previously used in military operations in the Middle East. Its heavy-duty material can withstand gunfire.
The Aerostat is tethered to the ground and flies at about 4,500 feet in the air, depending on wind conditions.
Two 360-degree cameras attached to the balloon allow Border Patrol agents to view live video feeds from ten to 15 miles in any direction.
“There’s a lot of smuggling of all kinds. Human and other, in this area, so it’s really increased our effectiveness here,” Olivares said.
The Guerra family has been a staple in the Rio Grande Valley since the late 1800’s. Large groups of armed immigrants have been known to enter the country illegally through their property.
“Groups of twenty to sometimes thirty,” Jody Guerra said. “Most of them carrying backpacks and there’s usually one or two people with rifles or weapons on them.”
His father said he takes pride in keeping his land safe.
“This is my heritage. I am fourth generation and I protect this property,” Richard Guerra said. “This property is like my lifeline.”
However, the father-son landowner duo said they have seen less criminal activity on their 9,000 acre property since the surveillance technology was installed nearly five years ago.
“As soon as the Aerostat was implemented, we noticed a decrease almost immediately in the amount of crossings through our particular property and the surrounding areas,” Jody Guerra said.
Since the Tethered Aerostat Radar System was installed in Roma in July 2014, Border Patrol agents have detected 81,841 people attempting to illegally cross the border. Agents have apprehended 43 percent of those people. Additionally, those agents have seized more than 361,550 lbs. of narcotics in the area.