A screen capture from one of the cameras at BlueServo.net. The images from the system provide little detail for users to discriminate between criminal and noncriminal activity.
A xenophobic Web site funded by a Texas government grant provides 15 live feeds of “high-crime areas” near the fence between U.S. and Mexico, urging people to go on “virtual stakeouts” from their computers and report “suspicious activity” to authorities.
These “virtual stakeouts” frame any activity on the border as criminal, as the low-quality video provides no way of discriminating between legal and illegal activity.
When her baby girl takes an afternoon nap, or on those nights when she just can’t sleep, Sarah Andrews, 32, tosses off her identity as a suburban stay-at-home mom and becomes something more exotic: a “virtual deputy” patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.
From her house in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Andrews spends at least four hours a day watching a site called BlueServo.net.
When Andrews spots something she deems suspicious—perhaps a fuzzy character moving from right to left across the screen or people wading through the river with what appear to be trash bags atop their heads—she and the site’s 43,000 registered users can send e-mail messages straight to local law enforcement, who then decide whether to act.
The video site’s supporters see the 15-camera project as a stride forward in U.S. efforts to halt illegal immigration, drug smuggling and border violence. Run by the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, an association of 20 sheriffs from border counties, the project seeks to spread responsibility for the border’s security across the nation’s masses of Internet users.
About 20 million people have clicked on BlueServo.net since it launched November 20, and the Web site has gained national attention at a time when many eyes already were focused on the southern border of the United States.