New x-ray tech now used at Texas border to fight drug, human smuggling crisis
AUSTIN, Texas - Thousands of vehicles travel in and out of Texas every day on bridges known as ports of entry, and finding and stopping the smuggling of drugs and migrants is a slow process. A new x-ray scanner is expected to change that.
"It's an unstoppable tool. It truly, truly is," said Mike Tamez.
Mike Tamez is with the Nueces County DA's Office Criminal Interdiction Unit. He is also helping train border agents on how use a new x-ray called the Osprey.
Federal officials started testing the scanners last year at several Texas ports of entry. Vehicles drive over scanners in the roadway, and that is a difference maker.
"I was teaching at the bridge in the Rio Grande City last week, and it's why I found a compartment in vehicle. It was underneath the car, and it was in the fuel evaporator system canister. I don't know what that is, but it's part of the fuel emissions system. They're hollowed one out, cut the seam off, fit and complete, hollowed it out and resealed it when I thought it was empty. But I asked. I asked one of the customs officers there, who deals with x-rays if they had seen this with their x-ray going, you know, shooting downward. And he said, absolutely not. This is too much to get through the seats, the flooring, suitcases, people. So there's a lot to go shoot through to get to that point. But with this technology, it's going to make it 100% visible," said Tamez.
The system is made by a Boston-based company called Viken and a larger roll-out started in January. Viken also has hand held scanners that are being used to search vehicles.