Texas has started broadcasting live images of the U.S. border on the Internet in a security program that asks the public to report signs of illegal immigration or drug crimes.
A test Web site went live Thursday at texasborderwatch.com with views from eight cameras and ways for viewers to e-mail reports of suspicious activity. Previously, the images had only been available to law enforcement and landowners where the cameras are located.
"There is only one way to test it, and that's open it up for business," said Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw.
Some civil rights groups have criticized the "virtual border watch," saying it will instill fear in border communities and could lead to fraudulent crime reports and racial profiling.
The cameras will operate at hot spots for illegal activity, such as Amistad Reservoir in Del Rio and Falcon Lake in Zapata, and other active border areas such as highway rest stops and inspection stations, officials said. Information e-mailed by viewers goes to the state's operations center and local law enforcement in that area.
McCraw said the project will eventually grow to include at least 70 cameras throughout South Texas, some with zoom lens and thermal capacity. The state is using $5 million in federal security grants that have been earmarked for the web camera program.