Posted: Jul 7, 2014 6:18 PM
Updated: Jul 7, 2014 7:42 PM
WESLACO - The state of Texas is conducting one of the most robust security operations to shut down Mexican drug cartels along the border, officials said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has a $1.3-million-a-week budget specifically for that purpose, state leaders said.
Hours of congressional testimony shed some light on where that money is being spent. CHANNEL 5 NEWS compared the current strategy to a 21-day operation held in the region in 2013.
"If you can coordinate saturation patrols, you do it on the border, not 10 ... 15 miles away. You do it on the water, above the water and along the water. You'll shut down their opportunity to move people and products at the ports of entry," DPS Director Steve McCraw said during a state hearing last week.
McCraw said the money is going to many agencies - including local police departments, sheriff's departments and game wardens. Some of that money is being used to pay for overtime.
DPS troopers work 12-hour shifts mainly along areas south of Interstate 2, south of Boca Chica Blvd. in Brownsville and along Military Highway. They use boats, helicopters and a fixed-wing surveillance aircraft.
The high-tech patrols require more dollars to operate.
McCraw said the state agency has better-quality assets than Border Patrol.
A check of the western side of Hidalgo County revealed five state troopers in a 2-mile range just west of La Joya. On Military Highway, a DPS unit was at each intersection.
McCraw said the plan is to show law enforcement presence through DPS, game wardens or local officers.
"They (drug cartels) use an intelligence model ... it's very sophisticated. They use scouts. They know where we are," he said.
McCraw said the idea is to cover any gaps in patrols and leave the cartels with fewer options.
The 21-day surge in 2013 cost $1.1 million a week. DPS provided a breakdown of those costs.
The surge brought 611 DPS personnel to the region. That number included the troopers already stationed here. The law enforcers took part in criminal interdiction, commercial vehicle enforcement and traffic safety. The total cost for the 21 days was $3.4 million.
This time DPS will not do checkpoints or commercial vehicle enforcement.
"It is important to note that the current operation is significantly different from the 2013 operation," DPS Press Secretary Tom Vinger said.
"While we are utilizing the same strategy of 24/7 saturation patrols on the ground, on the water and in the air, this latest surge operation directed by the Texas leadership is one of the most robust border security operations the department has implemented to date," Vinger said.