2007-10-10 / Front Page

Spence appointed to Border Sheriff's Coalition group to represent Willacy County

Wilson: Port Mansfield needs protection from border trafficking
ROBERT WILCOX Reporter

ROBERT WILCOX ReporterÊ

Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence was asked to join a 16-member group of sheriff's whose departments will become an instrumental part in the protection of the Texas-Mexico border from illegal immigration and trafficking of drugs and stolen property.

Port Director Mike Wilson, Sheriff Spence, and numerous other Willacy County and City of Raymondville officials met with Steve McCraw, who is Gov. Rick Perry's Homeland Security director, late last month.

McCraw and the group toured Port Mansfield as part of his visit to the Rio Grande Valley. At a press conference after the tour, McCraw said that Port Mansfield is a weak link in the nation's border protection efforts.

Wilson and Spence wholeheartedly agree with McCraw.

"When the federal and state governments start to better secure our border along the Rio Grande Valley, it will be places like Port Mansfield where they will come," said Wilson, referring to drug traffickers and illegal aliens. "Traffickers will look for other routes for things that are illegal or are stolen."

Wilson said that he asked for cameras to be installed from the jetty's, to the intracoastal waterways, to the Port Mansfield harbor.

"Another waterway that is a weak link is Falcon Lake that straddles the border, and has open harbors on both sides," Wilson added.

Spence said that the more that the group talked about Port Mansfield, the more they felt that the county would be exposed. He cited the open public waterways, a state highway, and an airport as paths that illegal activity would utilize.

He hopes that the county will get boat(s) to patrol the waterways around Port Mansfield and the nine miles of South Padre Island in the county, along with additional deputies for the new marine crews.

The sheriff also plans to request 4-wheel vehicles, bulletproof vests, more firearms, night vision goggles, and all-terrain vehicles.

"We're just 25 miles from the border, and had not been a member (of the coalition) in the past," Spence said. "The other problem is that we have feeder roads from Cameron and Hidalgo County."

"This is good news for Willacy County," referring to the invitation to join the sheriff's coalition.

Spence thanked Willacy County county's lobbyist Sally Velasquez, for her efforts in arranging McCraw's visit, which he feels will be instrumental in Willacy County getting future federal and state funding for new equipment and additional personnel; all to better protect the nation's borders.

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