Crimes against children, human trafficking, drugs and theft are on the rise in George West.
“All this illegal activity goes back to one thing—money,” George West Police Chief Rey Garcia said. “It ain’t no recession; there is plenty of work here for people. Since most employment requires drug testing now, how many people can pass a drug test? It all leads back to Mexico and the cartels; anything to make a buck, and they will find a way. Whether it is selling drugs or hauling illegals.”
Location is a factor for the increased activity in George West, which is intersected by Highways 281 and 59, major corridors for illegal smuggling from Mexico.
U.S. Border Patrol can make a stop for any reason within 100 miles of the U.S. border, and George West is 108 miles from Laredo. GWPD Detective Sergeant Sam Gray said illegal smugglers will relax a bit once they reach town.
Garcia said traffic has increased on both highways with mostly commercial vehicles, but the GWPD isn’t seeing a lot of new faces, as it is mostly repeat offenders.
Domestic violence and crimes against
There are 10 cases of indecency with children in George West so far this year, compared to two cases in 2010.
One of the 10 cases has gone on to federal court. The other cases are still awaiting court or indictment.
Gray credits the increase in cases with people not being afraid to come forward and talk about what’s happening behind closed doors. She said the cases typically involve drugs, but some are due to mental illness.
“A lot of times they don’t come out and say it for fear of embarrassment, the people who do that have control of the child,” Gray said. “I know the county has seen a rise as well.”
Family violence has gone up by at least 50 percent in George West, according to Gray. She said the GWPD gets several calls a month regarding family violence, usually involving drugs and alcohol.
George West families often try to handle these issues from within, according to Gray. But now that residents are coming forward, the GWPD is working with Child Protective Services to make George West a safer place to live.
“Don’t be scared to call us, that is what we’re here for,” Gray said. “I can’t tell you how many times I say that a day.”
Unlike McMullen County where population increases are the main factor, Gray said George West’s increase in criminal activity is more locally driven. She said oil field workers who use meth aren’t bringing it to the area; it’s being locally supplied.
“I don’t think it’s the oil field, and that’s a common response you’ll get,” Gray said. “They are purchasing it from the locals, and they have more clientele from other local residents.”
Garcia said drug related incidents are getting worse in George West, and meth is their primary issue. He said that so far this year there have been 30-40 meth arrests. Many of these arrests haven’t gone to court yet because the DPS laboratory in Corpus Christi is backlogged for analyzing the drugs.
This means the accused offenders are still freely living within the community.
Garcia said GWPD has been following their leads from these cases, which often helps them to uncover further criminal activity.
“Of course, we noticed that our number of theft calls are on the increase, and when you look into it, it is all related back to a drug habit,” Garcia said.
Yeti coolers have been a hot item for thefts, often stored in the beds of pickup trucks, relatively easy to take and re-sell.
Although it was almost unheard of just a few years ago in George West, incidents of employee theft are rising in town.
“There have been more calls; people realize now that law enforcement is going to take action,” Garcia said. “They have confidence in us.”
Garcia said traffic violations are always increasing in George West, mostly due to the constant increase in police presence. GWPD never had an officer on patrol after midnight up until 1997, which meant all law enforcement in Live Oak County was left to whatever staffing DPS and the sheriff’s department could provide.
Garcia said it took two years for GWPD to be on patrol 24 hours. They have since added eight additional officers and still have two more seats to fill.
“I did a little research into why a lot of the stuff happened, and it all boiled down to police presence and visibility,” Garcia said. “The more visibility of the police cars and officers you have, the less problems you are going to have.”
Traffic violations have more than doubled since 2006 from 2,401 tickets to well more than 7,000 so far this year, according to Garcia.
“What tickles me to death is when I come into town behind a car hauling butt and when they hit the city limits sign, you see the brake lights hit, and they slow down,” Garcia said. “That is respect; they know they need to slow down in George West.”