Posted: Mar 22, 2012 8:18 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2012 6:38 PM
A few small Valley agencies are getting crime fighting equipment for free. They say they couldn't afford it otherwise.
Those small agencies got rifles and handguns. They also got things like vests and cargo trucks. They may be old, but they're doing the job. This is the firepower that could mean the difference between life and death.
"We're not talking about one or two suspects. We're talking about multiple suspects that come to this side," says Elsa police Chief Sergio de Hoyos. "Usually they have more firepower than law enforcement."
Elsa is a small city of only 6,000 people. De Hoyos only has 18 officers on his force.
"Very helpful, especially right now with all the spillover violence we are encountering and we are so close to the river," says de Hoyos.
He got 15 handguns, 13 rifles, a generator and two cargo trucks this past year from the Pentagon's law enforcement office. It's old military equipment.
"With the tough budget we can't afford buying those guns," says de Hoyos.
It would have cost him $30,000. This is the first time every officer on the force got a department-issued weapon from this arsenal.
"They purchase them themselves from Academy, a gun shop," says de Hoyos.
We did the research to see how many other Valley agencies got surplus military equipment. We got the numbers from Defense Logistics Agency disposition services, which manages the Pentagon's surplus equipment. DLA gives the equipment to a state coordinator. That coordinator fills requests from law enforcement agencies on a first come, first serve basis.
Edcouch got 17 items, including tanker trucks, cargo trucks, pistol holsters. Edinburg police got a van; Los Fresnos got an electric power plant and a diesel generator. The Willacy County sheriff got a utility truck.
Rising Star near Abilene, population 823, got more than 200 pieces, including night vision cameras, a tactical vest and a riding lawnmower. Wichita County got 300 items; Round Rock near Austin got more than a hundred items, digital audio surveillance, camouflage elbow pads and survival vests. Small Nocona in north Texas got almost a hundred items, including cargo trailers and binoculars. Odessa got more than a hundred guns.
We found a problem with the list. De Hoyos got guns that aren't on the list. We notified the Defense Logistics Agency disposition services. They are now reevaluating their numbers.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety says the federal government must clear agencies before they can register for the equipment. If the equipment is available and they're the first to ask for it, they get the goods.