McALLEN, Texas (Border Report)– A Massachusetts company says it is supplying the federal government with X-ray scanners that are being deployed at checkpoints along the Southwest border to detect illegal drugs and weapons in vehicles.
The Burlington-based Viken Detection is producing the technology that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to see under passenger cars and commercial vehicles before they pass through border checkpoints, Viken CEO Jim Ryan told Border Report on Tuesday.
The under-vehicle inspection system allows border officers to see inside tire wells, bumpers, tubes and valves, as well as the trunk and cab “in real-time,” Ryan said.
“Basically, all the components are underground,” Ryan said. “And as the vehicle is driving over our system, an image of the under vehicle — with what we call a backscatter view — is immediately put on the screen to inspect the vehicle in real time. And there’s traditionally enough time between where the vehicle is inspected before the vehicle actually makes it through the checkpoint to allow an analyst to inspect the vehicle and look for potential contraband.”
Under carriage images as seen through Viken Detection’s under-vehicle inspection system, (Photos Courtesy of Viken Detection)
Ryan said the hardest part of a vehicle inspection is the undercarriage, and that is what makes this technology so vital.
“We inspect all the components of that vehicle for weapons, for drugs for cash, even human smuggling. All those things can be detected with the under-vehicle technology,” he said.
Ryan said this is part of a $500 million border security contract, awarded to Viken and two other companies, that is being rolled out in phases by CBP.
He said the goal is to scan 40% of all passenger vehicles and 70% of commercial vehicles and trucks.
He would not say where the devices are currently in place, due to security restrictions, but he said eventually CBP wants all checkpoints on the Southwest border with Mexico to have this equipment.
In 2021, CBP announced it was using X-ray scanners at some ports of entry on commercial trucks, according to the CBP website.
Border Report asked CBP how many checkpoints are utilizing the technology and how helpful it is. This story will be updated if the information is received.
Ryan said the technology emits “low energy” and is “lower than a dental exam, or a chest X-ray or CAT scan or anything like that.”
Ryan said the new scanners allow a full vehicle to be screened in one pass. If a vehicle looks suspicious, he said the protocol is to refer them to a secondary inspection where hand-held devices and agents and officers conduct further screens.
“No one technology is foolproof. So to increase the odds of detecting, you know, these drugs or weapons, the more layers of security that are efficient and safe, the better it is,” Ryan said.