Texas

X-ray scanners from scratch check vehicles for contraband at border checkpoints

McALLEN, Texas (border report). The Massachusetts-based company says it is supplying the federal government with X-ray scanners that are used at checkpoints along the southwestern border to detect illegal drugs and weapons in vehicles.

Burlington-based Viken Detection is developing technology that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to look under cars and commercial vehicles before they pass through border checkpoints, Viken CEO Jim Ryan said Tuesday.

The under-vehicle screening system allows border guards to see the inside of tires, bumpers, cameras and valves, as well as the trunk and cabin, “in real time,” Ryan said.

“Essentially, all the components are underground,” Ryan said. “And as the vehicle moves through our system, the image underneath the vehicle — with what we call the backscatter image — is immediately displayed on the screen for real-time inspection of the vehicle. And there is usually enough time between the inspection of the vehicle and the vehicle actually going through the checkpoint to allow an analyst to inspect the vehicle and find potential contraband.”

Undercarriage images taken from Viken Detection’s under-vehicle screening system (photos courtesy of Viken Detection)

Ryan said the hardest part of inspecting a car is the chassis, which is why this technology is so important.

“We check all the components of this car for weapons, drugs for money, even human smuggling. All this can be detected with the technology installed under the car,” he said.

Drugs, weapons and people can be detected using undercarriage scanners deployed at US ports of entry on the southwestern border. (Photo courtesy of Viken Detection)

Ryan said it is part of a $500 million border security contract awarded to Viken and two other companies that is being phased out by CBP.

He said the goal is to scan 40% of all passenger cars and 70% of commercial vehicles and trucks.

He did not say where the devices are currently located due to security restrictions, but said that eventually the CBP wants all checkpoints on the southwestern border with Mexico to be equipped with the equipment.

According to the CBP website, in 2021 CBP announced that it was using X-ray scanners at some commercial truck ports of entry.

Border Report asked CBP how many checkpoints use the technology and how useful it is. This story will be updated as information is received.

Ryan said the technology emits “low energy” and is “lower than a dental exam, chest x-ray, CT scan or whatever.”

Ryan said the new scanners allow an entire vehicle to be scanned in one pass. If a vehicle looks suspicious, he said the protocol should send them to a secondary inspection, where handhelds, agents and officers conduct additional inspections.

“No technology is reliable. So, to increase the chances of finding these drugs or weapons, the more effective and safe levels of security, the better,” Ryan said.

Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at [email protected]

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