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Updated Mar 18, 2014 - 7:07 pm

Arizona senator unveils equipment for virtual border fence

SpotterRF spokesman Logan Harris displays a radar monitor that would be used to help monitor the border between Arizona and Mexico. Each compact unit can surveil up to 20 acres of land for drug and human trafficking. (KTAR Photo/Mark Remillard)

PHOENIX -- Republican State Sen. Bob Worsley unveiled Tuesday equipment that would be used to virtually monitor the border between Arizona and Mexico as part of a bill he's proposed in the Senate.

It's the second attempt at securing the border through means of a virtual fence and Worsley is calling for $30 million to construct 300 watch towers and radar transmitters that will monitor the border for drug and human trafficking and illegal crossing.

Worsley said he is a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, but that cannot take place until the border is secure and there is quantifiable proof.

"What we're looking at here is the next step for immigration reform in this country," he said. "The states want to know that the border is secure before they're willing to go to the next level and address all of the other complicated issues we have with immigration in this country."

The system of watch towers and radar monitors would allow real-time access to law enforcement to intervene on drug and human trafficking, Worsley said. He added it could also be used a check on the work of law enforcement.

"We would be able to verify as a state that the federal government is in fact doing their job to secure our border," he said. "Ronald Reagan said, ‘Trust but verify.'"

The monitoring equipment is being provided by a Utah company called SpotterRF, which manufactures compact surveillance radar.

"These are very small, lightweight radar systems, all solid state, very rugged," said company representative Logan Harris.

The small radar units are placed on top of towers and each one is capable of monitoring up to 20 acres.

"It's able to pick up anyone who is walking and send an alert back through many types of communications networks," he said.

Harris said their compact radar system is unique in that they use a small amount of power and only weigh about one-and-a-half pounds.

The radar provides GPS tracking of movement and the signal is then relayed to a network, which can then be used to program alert zones or geo-fences, said Harris. Then, while working in conjunction with a network of cameras, the radar can automatically pivot and point the camera systems to view whatever has tripped the radar alert.

"The camera points, takes a picture and relays that back through the network," said Harris.

There are still a lot of contingencies for the program to come to fruition, including the bill's passage through the legislature and governor's office, as well as deals that would need to be worked out with private, reserve and federal landowners to allow the towers to be placed on their property.

Worsley said no such deals have been proposed or approved at this time.

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About the Author


A southern California native, Mark Remillard began working in radio in 2010 while in community college as a host of late night and weekend programming for publicly supported 88.5 FM KSBR. While working through college, Mark also interned for the Bill Handel Radio Program at Los Angeles' KFI AM640, where he began his work in journalism. Mark moved to Arizona in August 2012 to finish his bachelor's degree at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and graduated in August 2014. Mark began working as a reporter for KTAR in November 2012.

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