Locally, deputies already receive some state money to stop illegal trafficking of drugs and cash.
This year, the sheriff’s office received $92,000 as part of Operation Border Star.
“Border Star is going to pay us to run the streets for interdiction of bad people, weapons and dope,” Lt. Ronnie Jones of the Bee County Sheriff’s Department said.
“It puts more boots on the streets.”
With only a limited number of deputies available, the grant is used to pay overtime and keep more deputies working and the area safer.
“We have gotten several hundred thousand dollars since 2007,” Jones said.
“It has been very effective.”
While the officers are primarily working the highways, they are also available if needed in an emergency.
Their focus—areas like U.S. Highway 59.
“This is a major corridor,” Jones said. “Highway 59 goes from Mexico to Minnesota.
“We are getting more and more illegals coming through.
“I wish I could have a dedicated interdiction officer on 59.”
The smuggling of illegal immigrants has been in the news recently because of the number of children crossing the border. This has overwhelmed federal agents and is making it easier for the nefarious sorts to slip through.
“Texas is stepping up and doing what the federal government has failed to do–secure the porous border,” said Greg Abbott, attorney general.
“The Obama administration’s failure to enforce the rule of law has empowered transnational gangs and cartels to smuggle people into our state from around the world—including members of deadly gangs like MS-13. The Department of Public Safety will have the tools and resources it needs to curtail illegal smuggling, horrific human trafficking and cartel imported crime. Securing the border will reduce the illegal activity which—in turn—will promote the legitimate trade that helps make Texas the leading exporting state in the country.”
Abbott requested the additional funds to assist with the influx of child immigrants which has so overwhelmed the U.S. Border Patrol that federal agents who are devoting time and resources to the humanitarian aspects of the surge are not available to secure the border and successfully stop criminal activity.
While it is easy to imagine that all of those stopped by the local deputies and officers are gang members hauling drugs—that is far from the truth.
“A majority of the people we deal with are not gang members,” Jones said.
“Of course, you get the one percent.”
Yes, sneaking across the border is illegal, but most of those doing so are coming for work—not to commit crimes, he said.
That one percent could be anything from Mexican Mafia, Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos, Raza Unida or Texas Syndicate—all of which are prison gangs found in the city and county.
Jones said they are constantly working to curtail the activities of these gangs.
“The police do a great job with the street gangs,” Jones said.
One gang that is often not discussed but is growing in this area and statewide it seems, according to a recent DPS gang report, is known as Tango Blast.
“Tangos were first established by inmates from Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin,” the state report reads. “These original Tangos collectively came to be known as the Four Horsemen and still band together for protection in the correctional setting.”
Unlike other gangs, these Tangos in different areas of the state operate more as franchises as opposed to a hierarchical organization where decisions are made based on a set of strict rules.
Fortunately, Beeville is not a destination stop for gangs coming across the border—not even MS-13.
“Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is the best known transnational street gang in the world, with ongoing command, control and coordination between gang leaders and cliques in different countries. MS-13 remains a constant threat to the state of Texas through its use of violence and disregard of law enforcement,” according to the report.
Jones said that this area is a thoroughfare for smugglers.
Just recently in Karnes County, deputies found about 35 suspected illegal immigrants near Hobson.
Jones said that similar stories can be told of this county.
“They are getting more brazen,” he said. “They travel in groups quite frequently.”
The effort to stop the smuggling is not one that will go away any time soon.
“Everybody in these surrounding counties has added officers, but we have not,” he said praising grants like Border Star which help get more officers on the street. “It has been a godsend.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.