Concerned about cartel smugglers moving through Cameron County, the District Attorney’s Office and San Benito Police Department formed a new task force designed to stop them.
The deployment of more Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to Hidalgo County and Starr County prompted some smugglers to shift operations to Cameron County, said District Attorney Luis V. Saenz.
“We will be waiting for them,” Saenz said.
Modeled on the Kingsville Narcotics Task Force, the new Cameron County task force targets smugglers who transport drugs north and come back with weapons and cash.
The Kingsville task force works U.S. 77, the most direct route from Brownsville to Houston.
“Everybody is a potential smuggler on this highway,” said Special Agent Mike Tamez, who joined the Kingsville task force four years ago.
Tamez personally seized $2.2 million during 2015. Agents file civil forfeiture cases against cash, vehicles and other valuables, which help fund the task force.
“Because of the seizures, it pays our salaries, our training, our equipment,” said task force Cmdr. Guillermo Vera.
Saenz wants to take a similar approach in Cameron County.
“You have the bad guys paying for their own war,” Saenz said.