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Newspaper: DPS Made Just 10 Percent of Border Drug Busts

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An analysis of Texas Department of Public Safety records by the Austin newspaper clearly demonstrates what I’ve been contending about the agency’s role in border security: Director Steve McCraw is like the hunter who shoots at everything that flies and claims everything that falls.

The Austin American-Statesman today reported that McCraw, in his efforts to obtain up to $800 million in additional border security funding, has fed the legislature with statistics on drug seizures on the border region that includes every drug seizure by every law enforcement agency, local, state and federal. McCraw’s reports leave the impression that DPS is largely responsible for those seizures. But the newspaper reports that DPS’ direct contribution to the effort has contributed only about 10 percent of all the seizures.

State Representative Cesar Blanco of El Paso has been critical of the DPS efforts and has been trying to obtain similar records from McCraw. The agency rebuffed Blanco’s efforts, but the Statesman obtained the telling evidence using the public information act. When the newspaper presented the evidence to Blanco, he reacted:

Blanco, a former military intelligence analyst, said the figure raises questions about how forthright DPS has been with state legislators contemplating a historic increase in border security spending.

DPS Director Steve McCraw has “failed in his duty to provide vital information to the legislative body at a time when important budgetary decisions were being made,” Blanco said. “Hundreds of millions of tax dollars are at stake, and lawmakers should have answers from agencies.”

The newspaper’s examination of the agency data also showed that by many of DPS’ own productivity measures, troopers’ activity along the border is lower than other parts of the state. The number of closed criminal investigations there, for example, dropped 50 percent between 2009 and 2014 — the steepest dip of any region of the state.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger told the newspaper that the records did not really reflect the state police role in a coordinated team effort to fight the smuggling of drugs and people.

“Texas leaders did not direct the department to issue more traffic citations or warnings, seize drugs or make arrests,” Vinger said in an email. He added that trying to identify DPS’ specific contribution to drug seizure numbers was “like trying to determine if a basketball team won a game by asking the point guard how many points he scored.”

“Numbers do not secure the border,” he wrote.

The legislative budget writers need to ask some serious questions about the border surge that began under former Governor Rick Perry and has continued under Governor Greg Abbott. Is the political rhetoric of border security worth so little bang for the buck – especially when the proposals on the table spend an additional half-billion to almost a billion dollars?

(AP Photo of a drug seizure in 2011 by DPS and U.S. Customs and Border Control | Eric Gay)

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