After 2 years, Galveston County has no plans to stop sending resources to the border

The Del Rio sector of our southern border is 350 miles west of Houston and has become the 2nd busiest spot for apprehensions along the southern border.

Kinney County is in the Del Rio sector and for the past two years, Galveston County law enforcement has been sending resources to help the Sheriff’s Office handle a rise in smuggling cases and high-speed chases.

The Kinney County Sheriff’s Office has a handful of deputies, but is responsible for covering 1,400 square miles, including a 13-mile border with Mexico. Life long residents have seen the changes since the number of encounters along the border reached historic numbers in 2021.

“You never get rest, you never get to sleep to speak of,” said rancher Ray Melton. “Every night somebody was bailing out somewhere through here.”

Melton and his wife Sharon have lived in Kinney County for 30 years and moved to a 50-acre ranch 7 years ago.

“It keeps you on edge really all the time and I am afraid in some ways,” said Sharon Melton.

The couple said they’ve dealt with the cost of repairing fences and theft over the last two years.

“There is no telling how many times those fences have been knocked down right there, we don’t get paid for it, it just sits there so we have to rebuild it and we have to rebuild it. Time-after-time-after-time,” said Ray Melton.

The Meltons point out the immigrants desperate to get into the United States are not the people causing problems on their property, it’s those leading the groups.

“We don’t hate those people I mean, my gosh, I’d be trying to get out too, it’s the evil that comes around them,” said Ray Melton.

The Meltons also said they are grateful for the help Galveston County provides to the community.

“They have no regard for life, they have no regard for safety, they have no regard for property owners and their rights,” said Galveston County Precinct 2 Constable, Paul Edinburgh in reference to smugglers.

Galveston County Precinct 4 Constable Justin West said he sees the connection between crime on the border and crime in Galveston County.

“The drugs that made it there came from here, the stash house that had drugs in it in Friendswood, the stash house that had the people in Bacliff. So these direction connections to these activities at the border are in town,” said West.

According to the Constables and Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset, tours in Kinney County are voluntarily and do not not create staffing gaps back home. Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star pays for the effort.

“Do you foresee a time you don’t come down here?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“As long as the state offers us the ability to come down, we’re going to come down,” said West.

Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said without the help from Galveston County, his deputies would be quickly overwhelmed by the number of arrests and pursuits.

“We’re still seeing the huge increase in smuggling, but we’re seeing more bailouts and pursuits,” said Coe.

Coe says there were 139 pursuits in the county last year. This year, as of July 20, Coe said there have been 160 pursuits. Coe adds out of the 455 smuggling arrests this year, 33-percent are people from the Houston area.

Coe said the lure of easy money is drawing people to the border, willing to risk jail for the chance of making money running people from the border to points north.

“Who is involved in this, what is next? Of course we’ve seen the attorneys, we’ve seen teachers, we’ve seen professionals, we’re seeing a conglomerate of things,” said Coe.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”