With drug-related violence on the rise in Mexico, there has been a lot of talk lately about putting more boots on the ground at the border.

Anh Duong has different advice: Try Squid.

Duong directs a small unit in the Department of Homeland Security charged with adding a little whiz-bang wonder to the drudgery of desert patrols and vehicle checkpoints.

Her engineers scour the nation to find crazy-yet-promising concepts — like the Safe Quick Undercarriage Immobilization Device, or Squid — then team up with private entrepreneurs to turn them into working prototypes. They're not ashamed to admit that they draw inspiration from comic-book superheroes and science-fiction novels as they dream up the gizmos and gadgets they hope will keep bad guys at bay.

The Squid, a lightweight disc about the size of a manhole cover, lies on the road and ejects rubbery tentacles on command to ensnare fleeing vehicles and drag them to a stop.

Martín Martínez came up with the idea one evening in late 2005, over beers. Several beers.

"Light up a nice El Rey del Mundo cigar, start pouring Guinness, and you can get pretty creative," he explains. He had been watching a car chase on TV, thinking, "I could find a way to stop that guy." He still has the napkin with his squid scrawls.

Click here to read more on this story from the Wall Street Journal.