Thu, Feb 8, 2024 10:48 AM
By Bethany Blankley contriubtor, The Center Square
An Operation Lone Star Task Force created by Goliad Sheriff Roy Boyd has expanded and launched its first operation in the small border county of Zapata this week.
“This is the first time this has been ever initiated, and we're going to keep on doing it in the future, thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott and the resources and all the sheriffs that are agreeing to work together with Operation Lone Star Task Force,” Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque told The Center Square.
Zapata County deputies’ interdiction efforts wouldn’t be as successful as they’ve been without Operation Lone Star funding, Del Bosque said. Before the multi-agency operation began this week, his deputies had already responded to a terrorist threat and stopped a human smuggling event in Zapata, the largest town in the county that shares the same name.
Sheriffs and deputies from multiple counties came to Zapata this week engaged in a range of interdiction efforts supported by Operation Lone Star funding through Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission. The Texas legislature has so far allocated $11.5 billion for border security efforts, including to build Texas’ own border wall. The bulk of the funding goes to the Texas Military Department and Texas Department of Public Safety efforts; sheriffs receive a fraction of OLS funding by comparison through grants.
Texas Border Czar Mike Banks, who came for part of the operation, explained that OLS grants are “designed to help equip law enforcement along the border to help them work on manpower and overtime and combating the threat crossing the border.”
Of Boyd’s OLS Task Force, Banks said, “what the sheriffs have chosen to do on their own is they've decided to take that pool of resources and work together and collaborate together to be more effective. It's phenomenal what they're doing with the grant money they're being given. It sends a message to the taxpayers of Texas that they're being fiscally responsible. They're getting the most out of every dollar the state has given them, and it's unprecedented, and the results they're getting is phenomenal.”
Funding has enabled sheriff’s offices to hire more deputies and have more “boots on the ground, eyes in the sky, boats on the river, things that we didn't have enough of before,” Banks said. “Now they're collaborating together and bringing all their resources together. One department may be bringing the boats, the other department is bringing the helicopter, the other department is bringing dogs. They're all sharing resources that Operation Lone Star is helping pay for in order to be able to get the job done.”
Original members of Boyd’s OLS Task Force included 20 agencies, including 12 sheriff’s offices, seven city police departments and a county attorney’s task force. Those operating along the corridors leading to Houston, a major human and drug smuggling hub, have been described by many in law enforcement as the linebackers and safeties on a football team who act as the last line of defense against a massively funded and manned criminal enterprise. As the smugglers head north and south on interstates and county roads trying to reach Houston, the task force has been successful at catching them.
The task force has expanded to 28 agencies since its inception but with the support of the governor and Banks, Boyd is expanding operations. Current OLS Task Force operations stretch from Kerr County in the Hill Country to the Gulf of Mexico. Operation Lone Star Task Force West is expanding near San Antonio; Operation Lone Star in the Greater Houston area is expanding, being led by San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers. Plans are in the works to expand operations into central Texas led by McClellan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who provided air support during the Zapata County mission this week.
Ahead of the operation this week, Boyd said, “This is an effort that we've all come together, we work closely, all the agencies share resources, share intelligence, and our goal is to make it unprofitable for transnational criminal organizations to function across Texas. They can all go to New Mexico as far we're concerned, but we don't want them doing business here in Texas.”
Del Bosque said he works with other county agencies every day, communicating and networking, as well as with the Texas Rangers, Texas DPS, Parks and Wildlife and Border Patrol “because they're our backbone and our backup. We're the only law enforcement agency here in Zapata County. We rely on them to help us hold the front line, which is the border, not only to have Zapata safe, but the state of Texas safe and the United States safe.”
Agencies involved in the OLS Task Force operation conducted this week in Zapata County included sheriffs and deputies from Aransas, Brooks, Goliad, Jackson, Live Oak, Medina, McClellan, McMullen, Refugio, Wilson, and Wharton counties. Members of the police departments of Kingsville, Edna, Hallettsville, and Kleberg County Attorney’s task force, DPS troopers, and others were involved.