Border Patrol Develops New Uses for Data

The Border Patrol is always coming up with unique and creative ways to gauge security at border hot spots. In fact, in 2012, the agency released the 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan, which aimed to shift operations in favor of a resource-based model. It outlined the deployment of a broad spectrum of data collection tools, which have helped agents track the movement of illegal immigrants across the border. This data has also been useful to gauge and analyze any looming threats that might require more immediate attention.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher, during a panel discussion at the Center for the Strategic and International Studies, spoke about how his agency has been successful at adapting a more holistic and risk based approach to enhance cross border security. During his discussion, Fisher said that new technologies like unmanned aerial drones, ground sensors and biometric identification have drastically altered the agency’s operations over the last few years. Assistant Chief Robert Schroeder added that the emergence of new data collection tools has helped the agency to utilize their resources more effectively.

Traditionally, the success of patrol officers was based on the amount of drugs seized, number of illegal immigrants apprehended and total number of resources deployed across the border areas. The Border Patrol Strategic Plan does not solely rely on these statistics anymore. Instead, it seeks to secure the border by adopting low risk initiatives that offer a much higher probability of interdiction and detection.

For example, biometric data obtained from South Texas a few years ago presented the possibility that the region would become a ‘hot zone’ in the future. This intel allowed the agency to plan their operations in advance to check illegal incursions across the border. The data gathered from arrests and border checkpoints has also proven helpful in developing a better understanding of the underlying business plans used by smugglers.