EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – High-tech portals that will scan incoming vehicles for contraband are going up at two El Paso-area border crossings.
Several concrete arches that will house low-energy portal (LEP) scanning systems already can be seen on the western northbound lanes of the Bridge of the Americas port of entry. The structures are about 150 feet from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection booths and will provide CBP officers with imaging that could betray hidden compartments or illicit cargo.
“The LEP system will scan arriving traffic and the imagery generated will be used by CBP to identify potential threats in a timely and efficient manner,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio. “The systems will supplement existing non-intrusive inspection technology, enhance border security and will not impede current traffic flows or wait times.”
Construction started in April and CBP expects the system to be in operation this summer. After that, portals will go up in the Santa Teresa, Fort Hancock, Tornillo and Presidio ports of entry.
The construction is part of a push by the Department of Homeland Security to increase the number of vehicles inspected at border crossings. Security experts say transnational criminal organizations send most of their drugs through ports of entry rather than over the border wall or across the Rio Grande because only 2% of passenger vehicles and 16% of commercial trucks get detailed inspections.
ProPublica and other organizations in the 2010s questioned the effects radiation from devices such as airport scanners had on humans. But today’s LEPs use weaker radiation and backscatter imaging that the federal government deems safe.
OSI Systems, one of the vendors that recently won CBP contracts to provide the technology, has put out videos of how the LEPs work. The scanners generate imaging that detects hidden guns and bundled contraband.
A different scanning system called Cargo Multi-Energy Portal (MEP) is also under construction on the commercial area of the Santa Teresa, New Mexico, port of entry, CBP told Border Report. Similar MEP systems will be built at the Bridge of the Americas, Presidio and Columbus ports after that, CBP said.
Leidos, another technology company that won federal contracts for non-intrusive cargo inspections, also has put out a video of its technology at work. A single system can scan up to 150 vehicles per minute – tires to roof – in high-traffic sites, such as border crossings. The company says its systems can detect organic and inorganic cargo through 300 millimeters of steel. Other features include license plate readers and radiation detection.
CBP said construction at the BOTA and Santa Teresa ports is part of a $59 million congressional appropriation contained in the 2020 Securing America’s Port Act.