Border Counties to Increase Manpower

11-8-05 - Counties along the border will have an additional dozen officers patrolling during every eight-hour shift as part of an initiative by Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition.

Coalition members chose Monday to split a $6 million state grant, part of a border protection package ordered by Gov. Rick Perry, evenly among its 16 member counties. Each will each receive about $367,000 that will allow them to pay for equipment and the overtime of deputies, adding an extra layer of security along the state's border with Mexico, said the group's interim director, Rick Glancy.

"The idea is to get more boots on the ground all up and down the border and maintain a higher operational standard from one end of the border to the other," said Glancy, who also is a spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The increased manpower is part of "Operation Linebacker," a plan to add deputies and equipment in the state's 16 counties bordering Mexico. The plan was modeled after an El Paso County operation last year that led to more drug arrests and helped curb crime, said Glancy.

Coalition members also set aside $120,000 to hire a part-time interim executive director to run the group.

The state grant was included in a $9.7 million plan to fight drug violence and prevent terrorists from entering the United States through the Texas-Mexico border. The other $3.7 million will go toward making communications equipment the sheriff departments use compatible with each other and those of other law enforcement agencies.

While the additional money for overtime pay is appreciated, it will only help temporarily, and doesn't increase their workforce permanently.

Coalition members hope lawmakers in Washington will allow local law enforcement along the border to receive untapped Homeland Security funds, said El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego, the group's vice chairman.

"If you really look at it, $6 million for 16 counties is not really that much money," said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez. "We want to get things started with this seed money and hopefully wait for the federal funding, if there is any, and then we can go need-based."

The coalition formed in the spring to bring attention to the homeland security and border violence concerns of local law enforcement.