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New technology helping border patrol officers in Arizona

From Ninette Sosa, CNN Radio
  • Officials: Arrests are down on illegal border crossings in Pima County
  • Agents have found more bodies of people trying to cross the border
  • Agents using new technology that enables surveillance from a safe distance

(CNN) -- Arrests of people trying to cross the border in Arizona's Pima County are down slightly this year.

But one grisly aspect of illegal border crossings is on the rise in the area, border patrol officials say.

"We have found 142 dead persons in the last eight months," said Omar Candelaria, border patrol special operations supervisor.

That's 17 more bodies from the entire fiscal year of October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009.

"Some of the remains we find are skeletal and have been in the desert for quite an amount of time, maybe up to two to three years," Candelaria said.

The increase in bodies found in the area may be caused by an influx of more agents using new technology, Candelaria said.

Candelaria also credits the new technology with helping agents apprehend migrants and aiding those who get injured during the grueling journey.

"A lot of the time (migrants) are not told how far they'll be walking so they're not prepared for the hot trek, and they're not told how much water to bring," Candelaria said. "Smugglers don't prepare them for the dangerous journey."

One example of this new technology is an item called a mobile surveillance scope. The scope has sensors, a day-and-night vision camera, radar and a range-finder.

The scope sits on top of the agents' truck and can give them GPS coordinates of people trying to cross the border. The scope also helps agents determine from a safe distance whether the suspects have weapons.

"In the past, we've only had sensors, but now we're better prepared to properly address the situation," he said, adding that this is critical for the safety of the border agents and the community.