Monday, December 19, 2016



Note: Aerostats, along with aircraft, including drones can have problems when bad weather.

Trump team surveying border
Transition team instructed Border Patrol to suggest locations for border wall

RIO GRANDE CITY,Tx- Eight 55-foot balloons with military-grade surveillance cameras are providing U.S. Border Patrol agents an eye in the sky along the Texas-Mexico border. The blimp-like aerostats, which fly about 3,500 feet above the ground and are tethered to the ground, have 360-degree, infrared surveillance capability that can read a license plate from miles away Wednesday Dec.14,2016. Photo by Delcia Lopez
RIO GRANDE CITY — Just a few weeks before taking office, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has already taken steps toward fulfilling his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

"My understanding is that the sectors have been asked by headquarters at the request of the transition team, 'Tell us where you think we ought to have a wall,'" Cuellar said.

"I can tell you about the one in Laredo; they basically said no wall," Cuellar said referring to the Laredo sector's response. "But, nevertheless, they said 'No, that's not good enough, come back and tell us where we ought to put fence, wall, structure, whatever you want to call it.'"

Cuellar's comments came during a tour of an aerostat, a balloon or blimp equipped with infrared, high-resolution cameras that are used for surveillance along the border.

Some believe that the aerostats could be used to create a virtual wall along the border, lessening the need to build physical barriers.

The aerostats were used previously by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but five are deployed in the Rio Grande Valley sector and another one in Laredo.

Two of the aerostats, the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment, are owned by Customs and Border Protection. However, the Persistent Ground Surveillance System aerostats and the Persistent Threat Detection System aerostats are leased from the Department of Defense.

The can fly up to 1,000 feet, 3,000 feet and 5,000 feet above ground, respectively.

Cuellar said the information captured by the devices is also used by Mexican officials.

The cost of operating and maintaining each aerostat ranges from $308,000 to $466,000 per month, Cuellar said during the tour which was attended by officials from the Border Patrol and CBP.

"What we're trying to do in Congress in the appropriations, myself, is to have money in the budget to make it permanent where they can use the operations for the aerostats and for the tower cameras," he said, estimating they would need about 100 aerostats to cover the entire border.

Cuellar said he believed a virtual wall would be enough to secure the border and more cost-effective.

One mile of technology would cost about $1 million dollars while one mile of fencing, with contraction and maintenance, would cost $6.5 million, Cuellar said, citing testimony he received by the Department of Homeland Security.

Along with the aerostats, Cuellar said the use of towers, with cameras with a five-mile range of visibility in either direction, and ground sensors would aid the Border Patrol in securing the border.

He also suggested the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, which have begun to be used in the San Angelo area earlier this year.

Cuellar, once again, expressed disappointment that the $750 million he helped appropriate for border security has not been used.

"Kay Granger and I added $750 million to help the northern triangle," he said referring to the Texas congressman who also sits on the House Appropriations Committee. "That was about a year ago, and as of maybe at least two weeks, they had only used $23 million out of the $750 million while we're still having a large number of unaccompanied kids that are still coming in at this particular time."

Cuellar hoped the funds would be used to provide assistance to Central America but also reiterated the need to secure the border.

"There's some of us that believe that we can't just play defense on the one yard line where we spend over $18 billion a year on border security," he said.

"I'm one of those that believes we ought to look at the right mixture of personnel, technology to provide the security to our border."

How to spot a drug stash house in your neighborhood
Max Darrow
10:28 PM, Dec 14, 2016

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two people are behind bars after a suspected meth house raid near Tucson's Northwest side on Wednesday. These drug stash houses can be hidden in any neighborhood, according to the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

"They're out there, they're in every neighborhood that you could possibly imagine," Deputy Cody Gress said. "Some that you'd expect, some that you won't expect."

They say there are a variety of signs that may lead law enforcement and neighbors to believe a home is a drug distribution and stash house.

"People that seem strange to the neighborhood, people that are always different, you're never seeing the same people over and over again," Gress said. "Constant strangers in and out, at all hours of the night as well. Even the owners, being rather distant. Strange activity happening at all hours of the day."

Another one: people not using their front door and garage door to go in and out of their homes.

Last month, a multi-agency drug raid across Tucson ended up putting more than a dozen people behind bars. Gress says the Sheriff's Department is working closely with other law enforcement to bust these drug stache and distribution homes.

"To really crack down on these stash houses, on these distribution centers," Gress said. "Because Tucson is such a hotbed for that with the border."

Gress says these distribution and stash houses are not treated lightly -- and can pose dangerous situations in a neighborhood.
"Those are going to be your most dangerous because someone is there to protect it," he said. "And there might be that expectation that someone is there to protect it."

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 1,704 pounds (773 kg) of methamphetamine was seized by the DEA in Arizona this year; 207 pounds (95.6 kg) coming from Pima County.


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