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West Texas counties will receive free ride in airplane to patrol border By ALICIA A. CALDWELLAssociated PressVAN HORN, Texas — For years, Sheriff Oscar Carillo all but gave drug runners a free pass in the rugged and desolate desert that makes up most of southern Culberson County.With an annual budget of about $720,000 and eight deputies to patrol nearly 3,800 square miles, he felt he had little choice. “We have no police departments (in the county) and we’ve had to leave the off road stuff alone,” said Carillo, whose county begins three miles north of the Mexican border.But Houston radio talk-show host Edd Hendee has offered to donate a plane for Carillo and his counterparts to share.The plane hasn’t been purchased yet, and Hendee refused to be interviewed. But his Web site indicates his offer was prompted by frustration with federal border enforcement efforts.“The federal government is failing to meet its border control obligations,” Hendee says on a Web site for his project, dubbed Eyes on the Border. “In Texas, this has had the effect of putting small numbers of county sheriffs in the position of being the front lines of law enforcement along our part of the Mexican border.” The project will initially provide access to the plane to Carillo’s office and Sheriff Arvin West in Hudspeth County, Carillo’s western neighbor.If the project works, surveillance flights likely would be expanded to Jeff Davis and Presidio counties, Carillo and West said.The sheriffs, who together command fewer than two dozen deputies who patrol a combined 8,800 square miles of prime territory for drug and human smuggling, said they look forward to trying to make the project work.“If we can prevent 100 pounds (of drugs) from coming in, then we are doing a good job,” West said.Carillo said he hadn’t thought about patrolling the area by air until Hendee approached him with the plane offer.“Right now we’ll do anything and see if it works and evaluate it,” Carillo said. “It’s worth a try.”There are still a lot of questions attached to Hendee’s offer, including whether the two counties can find pilots capable of flying it. So far, Carillo said, one commercially rated pilot in the Van Horn area has offered his services.
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