How a West Texas Ranch Across the Rio Grande From Mexico Turned to Technology for Border Security

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Brite Ranch trustee Jim White says before installing more security cameras and additional barriers around his West Texas ranch, he and law enforcement caught nearly $40 million worth of drugs the cartels tried to smuggle across his land.

Only the Rio Grande River separates Brite Ranch’s land from Mexico. There’s no wall. It’s been a part of Jim White’s family since October 1885 and was passed down from generation to generation.

The Brite Ranch is likely most known for the raid that took place on Christmas Day 1917. According to the Texas State Historical Association, “the attackers cut the ranch’s telephone lines to prevent any call for help.” It was believed people from Mexico who led the raid were supporters of Pancho Villa.

A photo captured on one of the security cameras on Brite Ranch’s property. (Courtesy: Jim White)

White, 70, said for much of his life, the people who lived and worked in this area on both sides of the border had strong relationships.

“It’s more of a community that’s split by the river, by the border,” he said. “A lot of people in Mexico worked on the ranch here for more than 100 years. We know everybody. They know us. This didn’t really change a lot until sometime in the (1990s) when this drug cartel thing got big. It started changing because we weren’t dealing with locals anymore. We were dealing with people from Sinaloa and parts of Mexico that did not have any ties to this country.”

Times and relationships have since changed, he told Border Report. He remembers an incident from several years ago when his son found a pickup truck stuck in the road that leads to his ranch.

“It kind of surprised me,” he said. “It rained during the night. All these roads are dirt and are 22 miles off the highway.”

His family took down the pickup truck’s license plate number and sent it to both the Presidio County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Border Patrol. White and his wife eventually found the muddy tracks left behind from the truck. Then his wife found marijuana hidden in the brush. After he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he says he learned that there was supposed to be a crew to come in and pick up the drugs.

A photo captured on one of the security cameras on Brite Ranch’s property. (Courtesy: Jim White)

“I had no idea they had been doing this and for how long they’ve been doing this,” he said. “I realized the need that we kind of had to step up our security.”

White installed a security gate on the main road to stop traffic coming in and out and he also invested in a camera network. They’re all controlled remotely through a computer or cellphone.

He then learned about a company from San Diego that eventually came in and installed radar towers that function as an electronic fence. He says the different technologies have made his ranch more secure for the families and employees.

“It turned into a wonderful security system,” he said. “We were able to, in cooperation with Border Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office, stop a lot of the dope running through here.”

He recalls a time shortly after the cameras were installed when some people from Guatemala and San Salvador tried to steal a car from the farm about a mile from his home. When activity takes place, White, along with his son, wife, daughter-in-law and a local Border Patrol agent, gets an email. It’s a coordinated effort to notify law enforcement to intercept the action.

“We were able to catch them within 45 minutes,” he said. “Not only did we have them on security cameras, but they couldn’t get out because of the security gates.”

White says he hasn’t seen any drug smuggling attempts across his ranch in more than a year.

According to The New York Times, more tech companies have tried to push for what’s considered a “virtual wall,” even though President Donald Trump supports constructing a physical wall across Texas, Arizona and California.

For White, technology serves as a reminder for him to be aware of his surroundings. He says he doesn’t know how to wrap his head around the immigration discussions taking place at the national level.

“I’m just defending my little part of my little turf and I’ve had some good partners helping me,” he said.

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