Posted: Jul 12, 2012 5:06 PM
Updated: Jul 13, 2012 6:47 AM
WILLACY COUNTY - Smugglers and traffickers are becoming aware of part of the Rio Grande Valley where they can pass without much trouble from the law.
A law enforcement official in Willacy County said it's an open secret.
The miles of solitude and open range mask the fact that this area is a major corridor for traffickers, said Willacy County Precinct 4 Constable David Garcia. It's the area where Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron counties meet.
Garcia said the roads in this region get few police patrols and that's what makes them so attractive to illegal immigrants smugglers or drug runners.
"I rarely ever see DPS out here," Garcia said. "Day ... night ... mornings I change my schedule because I can't allow people to know what I'm doing - If I do, I could get hurt."
Garcia often is the only patrolman in this desolate area.
"This is lonely ... especially at night. You don't know what is out there," he said.
Garcia covers an expansive area and often doesn't have access to all of the land.
"This berm will take me to the bay, but I cant get to it because you can see there's a gate across it I don't have key to get through," he said, adding that some property owners will stop him from entering their land.
"In Willacy County there are islands, there could be marijuana out there, could be a safe house out there, who knows," he said alluding to the areas he can't access.
He said it's easy for criminals to hide illegal immigrants and drugs in the area.
"They'll cross them and bring them to a derelict or abandoned home," he said.
He also said the city of Sebastian is a hub for criminal activity.
"We don't have the resources to work drug trafficking," Garcia said. "I've had a very hard time getting the drug task force to come into Sebastian and do some work."
His work, however, is not limited to stopping drugs and criminals.
"I do traffic enforcement, evictions, repossessions, divorces, warrants, citations ... I have to do all of that," Garcia said.
Law enforcement in this region isn't black and white, said Garcia, an elected official.
"When you enforce the penal code you give people tickets, you arrest them for things they do and take them to jail ... and there goes the vote. That's the way it is for all elected officials - this county in particular," he said.
"Over the years, the constables have looked the other way, (but) I don't. I don't owe anybody anything. I do my job," he said.
Garcia said he doesn't do the job for the money.
"I make $14,300 a year ... yup, big money," he said.
Garcia has worked in law enforcement for 30 years. He worked as a police officer in 1973 in Houston. Later he joined the Border Patrol in Starr County where he worked his way up the command chain. His expertise was weapons, narcotics and deportation.
"As a deportation officer I removed aliens all over the world. I was in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Jakarta, Bosnia Herzegovina, South America ... I've been all over, I had a good life," he said.
Garcia said he has tried to make a difference during six-year tenure as a constable. He has battled cancer and kept working to serve and protect his citizens. But he will end his run at the end of the year if people don't reelect him.
"I am now in the place ... that I was born trying to help my community and my community is unwilling ... those are my memories," he said.
The memories of the good, the bad and ugly on these lonely roads will not fade soon.