Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says efforts to protect rural farms and ranches along the Texas/Mexico border have been expanded with the recent installation of new hi-tech surveillance cameras that will help state and federal law enforcement officials monitor illegal traffic across private property along the border.

Operation Drawbridge is a program designed to stop illegal drug and human traffickers from crossing the Rio Grande and encroaching on voluntarily participating farms and ranches by placing cameras along vulnerable crossing spots and known travel routes used by cartels to enter the country illegally.

The number of existing cameras used in the operation has nearly doubled as a result of a recent $225,000 grant awarded to the Texas Department of Public Safety, who, along with border sheriffs and the U.S. Border Patrol, is charged with providing 24-hour monitoring and response services.

“This grant is another critical step toward securing our southern border,” Commissioner Staples said. “Operation Drawbridge provides undeniable photographic proof that private landowners are constantly dealing with the dangers of deadly drug cartels and the impact of illegal human trafficking. DPS will be able to double its current surveillance capabilities and provide much-needed assistance to the men and women who risk their lives daily to protect Texas land, residents and our food supply from border violence and spillover crime coming from dangerous Mexican drug cartels.”

Staples joined Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw, Sen. Craig Estes, and other state and federal officials in San Antonio this week where the announcement of the grant award was made.

According to McGraw, Operation Drawbridge has resulted in the apprehension of approximately 4,000 individuals and more than 10 tons of narcotics since January 2012. The operation has been fully operational for an undisclosed amount of time and officials say the new cameras will expand area surveillance at participating farms and ranches. For security purposes, the exact number and location of cameras has not been made available.

“We are grateful to Commissioner Staples for this critical funding, which will significantly bolster our ability to monitor illegal activity along the remote areas of the Texas border,” McCraw said. “Operation Drawbridge and the dedication of the men and women of the sheriffs’ offices and U.S. Border Patrol in the border region are helping to make Texas more secure every day by working together and leveraging technology.”

According to the Operation Drawbridge (DPS) Web site, Texas shares a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, and the latest in surveillance technology is essential in protecting the state and the nation from Mexican Cartels and their drug and human smuggling and trafficking operations. DPS says since there are insufficient personnel resources to adequately cover the entire border region, effective use of detection technologies like those employed by Operation Drawbridge are a vital component in a multi-dimensional strategy.

According to DPS, Texas Border Sheriffs have demonstrated that live video coverage in remote areas along the border can support interdiction operations, but warn that cartels quickly adjust and relocate operations once they discover surveillance equipment. DPS officials claim this is good for Texas landowners along the border, but it creates a challenging obstacle to law enforcement who must then track down the cartels that quickly exploit other areas along the border.

In an effort to mask Operation Drawbridge equipment and to keep the cost low and affordable, DPS has modified wildlife cameras with motion detection and low light capability to meet specific needs of electronic border surveillance.

For more details and photos from Operation Drawbridge, click here.