McALLEN, December 7 - McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez does not have a high opinion of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s proposal that DPS implement a permanent “surge” operation along the border.
Rodriguez said he believes the Department of Public Safety has interjected itself into border security matters in recent years simply to get more funding and flashy equipment.
“The largest benefactor of funds through all of this rhetoric on border violence has been DPS. If you are them you continue the rhetoric so they (the Legislature) keeps buying you stuff and you keep getting money for your agency,” Rodriguez told the Guardian.
“They (DPS) are not the local agency. They have not taken into account the concerns and needs of the local communities and they are not integrated into the local communities. I hate to tell them this but the border is not 40 miles north of here, where you find all the troopers basically patrolling the highways in and out. That is not the border.”
Asked if Dewhurst had consulted with McAllen Police Department before announcing his border surge plan, Rodriguez said no.
“They have not talked to us. They have not sat down and taken into account our perspectives. They do not know what the real needs are. Quite frankly, their approach is based on the views of one agency, DPS. I am sorry but DPS is not the agency that answers the phone and goes to a citizen’s call for service when police are needed,” Rodriguez said.
“When you dial 911 and call for police you are not going to get a DPS trooper. They are far removed from the realities of the problem. That is the fallacy of this entire approach. It has been for years now. They (legislators) have been basing state policy and the state’s approach on the views of one agency (DPS) and that is the flaw.”
At a news conference in Austin earlier this week, Dewhurst said he wants to commit an additional $60 million towards border enforcement. Dewhurst praised DPS for its recent Operation Strong Safety in the Rio Grande Valley and said he wants DPS to run a permanent border surge operation. However, the surge will not include the controversial road checkpoint component that came under fierce criticism from colonia community and civil liberty groups.
Dewhurst said he is asking the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security to consider a number of border security issues in the interim. He wants the panel to study the effectiveness of DPS’s recent “surge operation and make recommendations for future surges.” He also asked the committee to “evaluate the most effective methods to deal with evolving threats, deter illegal immigration, and deter transnational and drug-related violence and crime.”
Cities like McAllen, Laredo and El Paso have long touted surveys which show they are among the safest in the nation. However, the criteria used for such surveys may change in the future. Dewhurst has instructed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security to “study whether current crime statistics reporting accurately measures all crime and crimes related to illegal border activities.” Dewhurst also instructed the committee to “make recommendations on how to best take advantage of the available crime data and identify potential barriers to adopting a more comprehensive statewide system.”
Dewhurst said: “It is clear that the security of the border region has an impact on public safety across the state. If we can achieve successful results with a coordinated law enforcement surge over three weeks, we owe it to our citizens to do it continuously, for 52 weeks per year.”
Rodriguez said Dewhurst and DPS would be doing far more good if they concentrated on southbound inspections at border ports of entry. Rodriguez believes drug cartel violence in Mexico is being fueled by weapons, ammunitions, cash and stolen property being smuggled into the country illegally from the United States.
“Our communities lose property every day that goes south, unimpeded to Mexico. People have free reign to go back and forth, many of them fugitives. We have no controls at all. Violence in Mexico is largely at the hands of weapons and ammunitions sold here yet we make no effort to address that,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he would be looking again to Valley legislators to file legislation next session to introduce southbound inspections. He said southbound inspections would require motorists and pedestrians to go through a “law enforcement zone” before leaving the country.
“I think it is important for our communities. In the absence of the federal government doing this, this is something the state of Texas could do to help. The state has put itself out there; DPS has put itself out there as wanting to be the agency that controls the border. Therefore it ought to be them controlling the exits. The bridges are essentially expressways to Mexico.”
In his interview with the Guardian, Rodriguez also criticized a recent op-ed from Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales that ran in the El Paso Times and the Guardian. The op-ed was written to promote Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples as being tough on border crime. Staples is running for lieutenant governor. Scales, who has co-authored a report on the safety of the border region for Staples, started his op-ed with this statement: “Sections of the Texas-Mexico border are similar to war zones our brave men and women serving in uniform face as they defend freedom in foreign lands.” He went on to claim that “sections along the Texas-Mexico border region are disintegrating and becoming even more dangerous places to live and raise a family.”
Rodriguez said no one should be surprised by Scales’ op-ed given that he was paid by Staples to write a study on border security. “I beg to differ with Mr. Scales and Commissioner Staples. This is not a war zone and there is no room for politics in this issue. We should not be trying to develop solutions under a political prism. Politicians should not be making a career out of border security. In the absence of another issue they make themselves relevant to their constituents with no regard to the local communities along the border,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also claimed Staples and Scales have “no realistic solutions” to border security. “They take the 10,000 foot high solution which in my opinion is a sound bite. We have got to quit doing this. It does not help us in reality. What they propose to do does not take into account the local needs in the true sense of community public safety. They want to avoid real solutions. They do not place any value on our border community,” Rodriguez said.