Tue, Nov 22, 2022 10:51 AM
By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
An Operation Lone Star task force operation in Jackson and Wharton counties resulted in the successful apprehension of fugitives and illegal foreign nationals and the confiscation of contraband.
Goliad County Task Force Commander John Davis coordinated the operation, which focused on human and drug smuggling, illegal firearms and stolen vehicles used by cartel operatives, and couriers of cash derived from those illegal activities.
Jackson County Sheriff Kelly Janica and Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar requested assistance from task force members to combat cartel-related crime occurring in their counties along Highway 59. They said the operation was “an overwhelming success.”
Srubar, who’s in his second term as sheriff, told The Center Square he’s never seen the level of crime in his county like he’s seeing now. It started, “approximately two years ago when we saw the administration change,” he said, referring to the Biden administration. “We started seeing a pursuit maybe once every quarter every year to almost daily now,” referring to pursuing human smugglers.
Janica has told The Center Square, “Biden’s border policies have been an unmitigated disaster” and the task force has made all the difference in thwarting crime.
In a recent pursuit in Wharton County observed by The Center Square, multiple law enforcement officers from several cities sought to apprehend “almost 10 illegals,” Srubar said. “We were able to successfully catch the driver of the vehicle and successfully catch about half of the individuals who decided to run. We called for a helicopter. DPS out of Houston has been unbelievably aggressive and comes on board when we ask for their assistance.”
Wharton County is roughly 60 miles south of Houston in Harris County, a key destination for cartel-driven human and drug smuggling about 300 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border.
“Our guys would love to be dealing with catching bad guys trafficking drugs,” Srubar added. “But nine times out of 10 we’re dealing with a human smuggling load. Nine times out of 10 that’s a pursuit. Nine time out of 10 we’re out in the brush trying to find people – almost on a daily basis. As long as I have interdiction forces and a patrolman on the highway, you can almost count that something’s going to happen on that day.”
Srubar’s team is among roughly 20 agencies working in the OLS task force created by Goliad Sheriff Roy Boyd. He has 20 certified deputies and three dedicated interdiction units to “try and enforce law and order.”
Once they apprehend illegal foreign nationals, they call Border Patrol. Two years ago, he says, “Border Patrol had the time to come and pick up these individuals.” But because they’re inundated with millions of people illegally entering Texas due to Biden administration policies over which Texas and other states have sued, “they don’t have the manpower.”
As a result, task force members, including Wharton County officers, are “now driving illegal aliens all the way to Refugio, Victoria, even to Corpus, which is over two hours from Wharton County,” he sad, “to turn them over to Border Patrol because it’s the federal government’s responsibility to deal with them.”
When asked if they were coming from Mexico or Central America, he said, “all over.” When asked if they were coming from China, India, or Russia, he said, “all over. It’s across the board.”
In the task force’s latest operation, multiple agencies working together executed 356 traffic stops, made 13 felony arrests, one misdemeanor arrest, arrested two fugitives, and apprehended 12 illegal foreign nationals, Davis told The Center Square. They made four drug seizures and seized 17 firearms used in criminal activity, two of which were stolen. They also seized $57,992 in cash, six vehicles and recovered one stolen vehicle. The operations occurred in Jackson and Wharton counties from Nov. 16 to 18.
Their efforts also led task force members to Houston, where they executed search and arrests warrants and confiscated firearms and drugs. They also made three felony arrests of individuals who Davis said are “directly responsible for smuggling crimes in our area.”
The task force acts as “a collaborative effort to assist member agencies fighting against transnational criminal cartels and their operatives,” Davis said, with a goal of being “all about results” not “political rhetoric.”
Boyd said he’s proud of their work.
While “there are a lot of self claimed experts talking to the media about the border crisis,” he said, “thanks to OLS grant funding, the task force is sending a clear message that criminal activity will not be tolerated in our member counties.”
Those involved in the 48-hour operation included the county sheriff’s offices of Brooks, Refugio, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, and Wharton, and the Kleberg County Attorney’s Office Task Force. Texas DPS and DPS Aviation-Houston, the police departments of Nixon, Ganado, Yoakum and Edna, Harris County Constable Precinct 5, U.S. Marshals Service Southern District of Texas-Houston, U.S, Border Patrol-Corpus Christi, and Homeland Security Investigations were all involved in the operation.
Statewide, since Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star last March, law enforcement officers have apprehended more than 325,000 people who illegally entered Texas from all over the world, made more than 21,900 criminal arrests, with more than 19,400 felony charges reported. Texas DPS has also seized over 352 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill everyone in the U.S.