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Texas defense contractor wants to expand border towers

In this aerial image released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, migrants, apprehended after illegally crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border near Lukeville, Ariz., gather together Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.

U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: February 10, 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Fort Worth defense contractor that monitors part of the U.S.-Mexico border with high-tech surveillance towers is looking to expand the technology in more states along the southern border.

Elbit Systems of America has operated dozens of towers along the border in Arizona since 2015 under a $145 million contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The Texas company is a U.S. subsidiary of Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems.

The 80- to 120-foot towers are equipped with radar sensors and cameras to detect motion along 200 miles of the Arizona border. The monitoring is used as an early-warning system so that a Border Patrol agent can be dispatched, if needed.

“They’re able to determine, are individuals carrying backpacks, which might be an indication of drug loads, or are they carrying weapons, which might indicate a higher level of threat,” said Gordon Kesting, the Texas contractor’s vice president of homeland security.

Elbit officials said they’re eager to expand the tower system in Texas, New Mexico and California as President Donald Trump continues talks on border security.

Trump is planning to hold a rally on Monday in El Paso to drum up support for his call for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. The president referred to the border city in his State of the Union address last week as a violent crime hub before a border fence was built, a claim that’s been disputed by several residents of the city.

Bob Edmonds, Elbit’s vice president of marketing, said the camera towers aren’t meant to replace a border wall, but to complement existing barriers in areas, such as El Paso.

Edmonds said the Border Patrol requested an expansion of the company’s camera tower system, but he declined to specify how much it would cost to cover the rest of the U.S. southern border.

Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com

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