Find a Security Clearance Job!

Homeland Security


Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI)

SENTRI is the world's first automated dedicated commuter lane, using advanced Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) technology modified to meet the stringent law enforcement needs at the border, while at the same time providing a more efficient means of traffic management, thereby reducing congestion. SENTRI is a border management process that has allowed the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to vigorously enforce the law and swiftly accelerate the inspections of certain low risk, pre-enrolled crossers at ports of entry. The system identifies travelers who pose little risk to border security, verifies their low risk status through extensive record checks, and screens approved participants, and their vehicles, each and every time they enter the United States. SENTRI was first implemented at the Otay Mesa, California port of entry on November 1, 1995. SENTRI Dedicated Commuter Lanes also exist at El Paso (Stanton Street Bridge) and San Ysidro.

A team of law enforcement experts from the INS, U.S. Customs Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the United States Attorney to the Southern District of California designed the SENTRI border crossing system for the use of low risk, pre-enrolled international travelers who frequently cross the border. When an approved international traveler approaches the border in the SENTRI lane, the system automatically identifies the vehicle and validates the identity of the occupants of the vehicle. This is accomplished three ways:

  • through data maintained in a SENTRI enrollment system computer (which includes digitized photographs of the vehicles occupants);
  • from data accessed by a magnetic stripe reader and the border crosser's PortPass Identification Number; and
  • by an inspector's visual comparison of the vehicle and its passengers with the data on a computer screen.

Simultaneously, automatic digital license plate readers and computers perform queries of the vehicles and their occupants against law enforcement databases that are continuously updated. A combination of electric gates, tire shredders, traffic control lights, fixed iron bollards, and pop-up pneumatic bollards ensure physical control of the border crosser and their vehicles. Using computer generated random compliance checks, and the Inspectors own initiative, the Federal Inspection agencies have detected only minor violations of customs and immigration laws.

Participants in the program wait for much shorter periods of time than regular lanes to enter the United States, even at the busiest time of day. Critical information required in the inspection process is provided to the inspector in advance of the passenger's arrival, thus reducing the inspection time from an average of 30-40 seconds to an average of 10 seconds. As soon as a vehicle crosses the border bollards and concrete barriers create a chute that captures the SENTRI traffic and puts it under an inspector's zone of control. At the entrance of the zone, an in-ground inductive loop and a free standing light curtain sense the vehicle and enable the SENTRI Automatic Vehicle (AVI) system. The AVI antennae interrogates an RF transmitter located on the enrolled participants vehicle. Once alerted, a computer locates data about the vehicle and its authorized travelers, and stores the data for ready access and display. As a vehicle continues through the chute and approaches the inspector's booth, a second set of AVI equipment activates and sends the information (generated by the first AVI reader) to a computer screen in the inspector's booth. In an instant, the inspector's color panel fills with the information the inspector needs for validation of both the vehicle and its occupant(s). The screen shows the license number and identifies the State that issued the plate; the make, the model, the color, and identification number of the vehicle; as well as digitized pictures of the approved SENTRI participants with their name and citizenship. Upon reaching the booth, the driver stops, reaches out the window and swipes an electronically coded PortPass card through a magnetic stripe card reader. If both the inspector and the SENTRI electronic equipment approve, the traffic light turns green, the exit gate raises, the tire shredders retract, and the traveler can drive into the United States.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list