The Drug Enforcement Administration has been issued a permit to install license plate readers along Interstate 19, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Details are scant, but preparation along the east and west shoulders of the southbound side of I-19 just south of the Border Patrol checkpoint and north of Exit 40, has been under way for about two weeks.
DEA Special Agent Ramona Sanchez, public information officer at the agency’s Phoenix office, declined to answer questions about the timeline, cost, goals and choice of a location 25 miles north of the border. In an email comment, she said the “DEA doesn’t disclose our investigative techniques. Doing so could potentially compromise ongoing investigations and jeopardize the safety of our agents and the public.”
In October, DEA intelligence chief Rodney G. Benson told a Congressional committee that the purpose of installing license plate readers along the Southwest border by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security “is to combine existing DEA and other law enforcement database capabilities with new technology to identify and interdict conveyances being used to transport bulk cash, drugs, weapons, and other illegal contraband.”
Sanchez declined to name the company providing the license plate readers. Motorola Solutions, one provider of such systems, describes its “rapidly deployable, scalable” license plate recognition technology as using “rugged infrared cameras that connect to leading-edge optical character recognition (OCR) technology software, allowing you to conduct surveillance under varied lighting and weather conditions.”