(NewsNation) — More than 20 sheriff’s departments responded to a small Texas county overrun by cartel activity after a local sheriff put out a call for help.
Kinney County, about a two-hour drive west of San Antonio on the U.S.-Mexico border, has become a playground for transnational criminal organizations using the rural land as a smuggling route, illegally transporting migrants and drugs farther into the country, Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said.
Coe says that though they work well with Border Patrol, the agency is stretched thin, unable to handle the volume of smugglers.
“Right now, they’re overwhelmed, completely overwhelmed. So, we’re having to pick up some of their slack, especially when it comes to transport and working some of these back roads,” Coe said.
Coe said the deputies who arrived to support Kinney County came ready and willing to help. Deputies, canine handlers and dispatchers arrived in force, equipped with a mobile command unit, prepared for the conflict taking place at the border.
“With the personnel coming in, we can cover that highway, and we can try to push some of this criminal element that is smuggling back either to another county where they have more resources, or shut it down completely,” he said.
Coe told NewsNation that the county’s new border task force has already stopped five smuggling attempts. Four of them involved pursuits, three had people bail out of their vehicles and one of the vehicles rolled over.
The crew also had three drug seizures, one fugitive arrest and six felony arrests, all within the first day of operation.
Kinney County not only deals with smuggling on the roadways but on the ranchlands as well. Since August 2021, the county has had approximately 5,500 criminal cases, which comes out to roughly 10 arrests a day, said Brent Smith, the Kinney County attorney.
Smith said officials there have become the first to prosecute for criminal trespassing under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.
Though the task force has been effective since it began operations in Kinney County, Coe says the federal government should be doing more.
“I hate to say it, but it’s gonna take money and a lot of manpower and a lot of patience. But if the federal government would step in and do what they’re supposed to do, (U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro) Mayorkas could stop this tomorrow,” Coe said.
Meanwhile, more help appears to be on the way to Kinney County. Coe told NewsNation that sheriff’s departments in Oklahoma have also responded and are working out logistics.