Big Bend Conservancy
2020 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!
State money helped smaller counties mostBy Louie Gilot and Brandi Grissom / El Paso TimesArticle Launched: 02/25/2007 12:00:00 AM MSTJeff Davis County is a diamond-shaped expanse of desert, larger than El Paso County but much less populated and much less policed. It's the type of county patrolled by a colorful tough-talking sheriff -- Sheriff Tom Roberts -- and, on most days, two overworked deputies.There's no secretary and no jail. Sheriff Roberts is sometimes stuck answering the phones himself, but, mostly, he's out pounding the beat."I go out and work. I'm a working sheriff," he said. There's not much crime in Jeff Davis -- not a murder or a stolen car in years -- and only occasionally "people get drunk and punch each other in the face," Roberts said. But there is a lot of drug smuggling, just as in all the other Texas border counties, and a lot of roads to patrol. Jeff Davis County is among the counties that benefited the most from Operation Linebacker. A study by the El Paso Times of border crime statistics showed that the state's money made a bigger splash in the smaller counties. Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety and --------------------------------------------------------------------------------Advertisement--------------------------------------------------------------------------------border sheriff's departments revealed that the seven counties with populations under 5,000 saw a total crime decrease of 15 percent when comparing September 2005 to August 2006, the first year of Operation Linebacker, with the same period a year before. The six midsize counties -- those with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 -- saw a 10.7 percent reduction, and the three counties with populations of more than 80,000 saw a 7.6 percent decrease. Two small counties, Brewster and Dimmit, one midsize county and one large county experienced crime increases.Jeff Davis County, with a population of 2,274, saw crime go down from 20 incidents to 14.Law enforcement experts said it pays off to help isolated sheriffs."It's a long border. It's pretty strapped for funds. I think it's probably doing more good than building a fence," said John Curtis, the chief legal counsel for the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas, or CLEAT.The 16 border sheriffs, all of whom belong to the Texas Border Sheriffs' Coalition, decided to share the first year Operation Linebacker money equally, regardless of county size. Each county received $367,500. The sheriffs are poised to get $3.8 million from the state for the second year, but this time, distribution will vary according to threat assessment, coalition officials said. It is unknown whether the program will get money for a third year. The money was a bounty but came with limitations.Many small counties could not use it to hire new officers because they would not be able to afford to continue paying salaries after the funding dried up. In Jeff Davis County, Sheriff Roberts just couldn't spend it all.Roberts said he bought pickup trucks, night-vision goggles and all-terrain vehicles. "There are still funds I'm trying to spend, and the deadline is coming up. I have about $150,000 left," Roberts said. His county judge, George Grubb, said no to extra officers.The county's annual budget is $1.2 million -- El Paso's is $241.9 million -- and the tax base isn't expanding."We can't keep them (new officers) on full time after" Operation Linebacker ends, Grubb said. "We could hire officers if they took a job that's over in a year, but it's hard to find deputies anyway because our salaries are so low."While some of the larger counties, such as Hidalgo, were able to commit to absorbing the costs of new officers, smaller counties had to be creative with their money.In Dimmit County, the sheriff deputized a constable, CLEAT's Curtis said.At the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department, where the on-hold music is El Pasoan Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law," Sheriff Arvin West and his 14 deputies were able to use the money for overtime and used it all. Crime went down from 49 incidents to 45."We're hoping for more money. We had more manpower on the streets, more conspicuous patrols," he said. As in many other counties, the evidence room in Hudspeth County is almost constantly filled with bales of seized marijuana. Drug possession arrests rates on the border are 83 percent higher than the national rate, a report by the University of Texas at El Paso's Institute for Policy and Economic Development found. But drug crimes don't attract federal money. Most federal law enforcement money is granted on the basis of the number of murders, rapes, assaults, robberies, burglaries, thefts and auto thefts. Experts say that's one reason small border counties get shortchanged."It's something they have to enforce. There's a law. You're not supposed to traffic drugs, but they're not being reimbursed for enforcing federal laws," said Dennis Soden, the executive director of the institute. "These are very, very poor counties. It stretches them horribly. There needs to be something like Operation Linebacker that can supplement."All the small county sheriffs interviewed for this story said that fighting drug trafficking was their busiest activity.They also have a lot of run-ins with undocumented immigrants. A previous El Paso Times study showed that the small counties caught about seven times more undocumented immigrants than criminals during the first six months of Operation Linebacker. The small county sheriffs detained 698 undocumented immigrants in a year and turned them over to the Border Patrol. "People don't want it but it really is out there -- the drugs, the crime, the potential for terrorism, and we don't want that," Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez said. His crime in his county went down from six incidents to one incident, an assault.Louie Gilot may be reached at email@example.com, 546-6131.Brandi Grissom may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; (512) 479-6606.
there is a lot of drug smuggling, just as in all the other Texas border counties
Quotethere is a lot of drug smuggling, just as in all the other Texas border countiesI guess you just need to be tough-talking, rather than versed in geography. Unless you can call Jeff Davis County a border-border county.
From my maps, it "barely" touches the Rio at the extreme western tip.
I hate it when my fingers get ahead of the noggin and available resources.
All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.