Mobile Surveillance System Mobile Surveillance System Photo courtesy of the Tucson Sector Border Patrol

Before 2007, the Sheriff's Department in Pima County, Ariz., had no border crime unit and no official operation to track and seize illegal immigrants sneaking into the U.S.

But that would change. By mid-2007, the border crime unit came into existence, supporting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's regional efforts to secure one of the busiest sectors on the Southwest border.

Since its inception, the unit has referred 1,450 illegal immigrants to border patrol; seized 30,000 pounds of marijuana, 126 vehicles, 44 weapons and more than $1.1 million in cash; and has made nearly 450 non-immigration arrests, according to Lt. Jeff Palmer, border crime unit commander for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Technology, he said, has played a huge role in border patrol operations. With tools that can scan miles of rough terrain, identity bodies by heat signatures and pick up vibrations in the ground, the unit can maximize efforts with limited personnel.

"The technology allows us to cover a lot more geography with pinpoint precision," Palmer said. "It extends our reach in the desert. We use it as a force multiplier."


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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer