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Government/Politics

House Panel Focuses On Measured Success With State-led Border Operations

A House select committee, responsible for studying the fiscal impact of Texas’ border security operations, received an update from the head of the Department of Public Safety on Operation Strong Safety. The DPS, with the help of the legislature, is attempting to iron out a system aimed at measuring their effectiveness in the Rio Grande Valley.

According to the director of the DPS, Col. Steve McCraw, the Rio Grande Valley is now the epicenter of drug and human trafficking in the nation.

“Fifty three percent of all apprehensions for the nation, as it relates to the Southwest border, occurs in the Rio Grande Valley,” he stated.

McCraw said those numbers have increased by almost 20 percent over the past year. But he said measuring whether or not that spelled success was hard to determine, as it was difficult to estimate the flow of traffic coming across the border when compared to the number of arrests for criminal violations.

“Well if we don’t know how many came across, then we really don’t know [a rate of improvement] and that’s why we’re seeking the legislature’s guidance on this. And we’d like to suggest a strategy on this from being reactive to proactive, by saturating areas with cameras.”, said McCraw.

McCraw said the DPS would then take those photos and measure them against what response their office or local law enforcement had during the time they were taken.

The Legislative Budget Board approved an additional $86 million, to add 600 more DPS troopers to the border region and install over 4,000 surveillance cameras between the points of entry.

Some committee members were concerned that the state’s border operation would soon become a permanent fixture in the Rio Grande Valley, while others feared that having such a large number of troopers on the border would negatively impact traffic and safety in other parts of the state.

McCraw reassured lawmakers that their goal was not to forever dedicate these forces to the border with Mexico.

They were also briefed on how the DPS hoped to better measure effectiveness by utilizing less manpower and opting instead, for more surveillance cameras in the Rio Grande Valley.  

Here’s Austin Democratic Rep., Donna Howard, questioning the DPS’ Col Steve McCraw on the need for the National Guard. 

Howard:  "Just answer me then, the purpose of keeping them there until March?"

McCraw: "Right now, observation posts."

Howard: "And why wouldn’t they need to do that after March?"

McCraw:  "We’re changing strategies."

Howard:  "And we’re not doing that until after March?”

The state is spending an estimated $12 million to keep the National Guard on the border.