Special technology helps officials monitor Balloon Fiesta crowd

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – To keep the thousands of people who attend Balloon Fiesta safe, the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and its partner agencies use a high-tech program called the Homeland Security Information Network.

“It’s a nation of enforcement that actually watches what is happening. Whether it’s through the internet or phones or different things that are happening on the ground,” said Karen Takai, Public Information Officer for New Mexico DHS.

HSIN is part computer program and part tactical team. It combines suspicious information found through technology and suspicious activity observed by hundreds of undercover officers to help authorities respond to threats before they happen.

“HSIN has raised the bar as far as our safety is concerned. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s a daily thing or a big event,” said Takai.

The Albuquerque Fire Department was recently featured in a DHS video talking about the way they’ve benefited from using HSIN at big events, like a 4th of July event this past summer.

“We had a gentleman walking towards the stage wearing a large trench coat in the middle of July,” said Jackie White with the Albuquerque Fire Department.

White went on to explain teams on the ground conveyed what they saw back to dispatch and to the Albuquerque Police Department who apprehended the suspect before he got closer to the stage.

Luckily, this was a false alarm. However, White says the technology played a crucial role.

“Everyone was given that information in real time, or as close to real-time as possible and law enforcement was able to converge on that individual,” said White.

Takai can’t get into specifics of how HSIN will be used this year at the Balloon Fiesta, but says the technology is invaluable.

“It’s making sure we are able to enjoy something like the great Balloon Fiesta, without fear,” said Takai.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says despite the mass shooting in Las Vegas, there will not be major security changes at this year’s event.

“We are always vigilant here, we are always planning. We have an emergency management group here at the city of Albuquerque, we’re always working on scenarios for natural disasters or other tragedy type situations and so we will keep being vigilant,” said Berry.

KRQE News 13 also asked the Albuquerque Police Department if the shooting in Las Vegas changes the security plan, PIO Officer Tanner Tixier said, “That will be addressed at the Public Safety Press Conference on Thursday morning.”

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