Additional aerostat likely slated for Starr County

One of the two additional aerostats to be deployed in the Rio Grande Valley Sector will likely go in Starr County.

The county which is part of the western corridor of the Valley is by far the busiest for drug and human smuggling.

Cities like Rio Grande City are often points of entry for this illegal activity.

"We do run into the immigrants, we do run into drug loads, we do run into pursuits that's part of what this entails," Rio Grande City Assistant Police Chief Noe Castillo said.

The traffic often leads to police chasing smugglers into Hidalgo County cities like Peitas.

But those pursuits have drastically decreased.

"We haven't had one in a while so it's been a major decrease," Peitas Police Chief Roel Bermea said.

Chief Bermea said he believes the aerostat, which is a surveillance balloon, is the cause.

He said since it's deployment in his city, police have also seen fewer illegal crossings.

"The numbers have gone down since the aerostat has gone up," he said.

After a six month evaluation period, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the three existing aerostats in the region which are in Peitas, Sullivan City and Brooks County, have proven effective at both deterring and spotting illegal activity.

Now two more are on the way.

"The more eyes we have on what's going on around us the better," Castillo said.

Rio Grande City police hope one of the additional aerostats is deployed nearby.

"I think any jurisdiction would love to have that in their area," Castillo said.

Border Patrol spokesperson Daniel Tirado said the two additional devices will likely be deployed somewhere in Starr and Brooks County.

Good news for Rio Grande City police who say they could use all the help they can get.

The additional aerostats will be deployed in June.

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