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Misinformation Slows Pedestrian SENTRI Enrollment

Audio

Aired 8/20/10

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they want to triple enrollment in the SENTRI, or expedited crossing, program to make border crossings faster and safer. A new study shows enrollment in the pedestrian program is hampered by misinformation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they want to triple enrollment in the SENTRI, or expedited crossing, program to make border crossings faster and safer. A new study shows enrollment in the pedestrian program is hampered by misinformation.

Two South Bay business groups interviewed about 1,100 people who walked across the border at San Ysidro last month.

The goal was to understand why enrollment in SENTRI is low.

SENTRI allows people to walk or drive across the border more quickly if they undergo a background check and pay $122 for a five year pass.

Jason Wells heads the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.

He says the majority of people either don't know about SENTRI or don't think it's for them.

"The only thing they know about SENTRI is they see a sign with an arrow that says SENTRI and every once in a while a guy with a suit will go through, so the thought is they must be a government official or a politician or somebody important. The real message that needs to get out there is that program is for everyone," says Wells.

Wells says customs officials need to change how they market SENTRI.

Cindy Gompers Graves, who heads the South County Economic Development Council, says there are simple steps customs officials can take, like handing out SENTRI applications to pedestrians or a card that shows SENTRI's web address.

Border officials say they'll consider it.

Two percent of people who cross the border are enrolled in the pedestrian SENTRI program and 25 percent in vehicle SENTRI.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin says he wants to boost that to 65 percent.

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