Perry Authorizes More Border Security Funding, Virtual Border Watch Program
$20 Million Now to Support Local Law Enforcement; Perry to ask Lawmakers for Additional $100 Million
SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Rick Perry today announced a new three-part plan that will help Texas fill gaps in border security left by inadequate federal funding and action. The governor said Texas will soon provide funding for law enforcement, seek a long-term financial commitment from the Texas Legislature to support border security operations, and create a virtual border watch program
“By leveraging advanced video technology and the power of the World Wide Web, and with an increased financial commitment from the state of Texas, we can make our border stronger and our nation safer,” Perry said. “A stronger border is what the American people want, that is what our security demands, and that is what Texas is going to deliver.”
Perry’s announcement takes a three-pronged approach:
- Texas will dedicate $20 million in available state funds to sustain and expand Operation Rio Grande, a comprehensive border security strategy ordered by the governor in Feb. 2005, through the current fiscal biennium. These funds will be used to pay for officer overtime, needed equipment like 4-wheel drive vehicles, body armor and night vision goggles, and technology upgrades such as electronic fingerprint booking stations. Funding will not only continue to flow to border sheriffs, but will also go to local police departments and law enforcement agencies up to 100 miles from the border.
- Perry will ask the legislature in the next session to authorize $100 million to sustain Operation Rio Grande until the federal government fulfills its responsibility of securing the border. With these funds, Texas will be able to increase law enforcement’s presence on the border by the equivalent of 1,000 additional officers. “Putting more officers on the ground has always been the best strategy for reducing all types of crime, from misdemeanors to drug trafficking and human smuggling, and this new commitment will make Texas safer,” Perry said.
- With voluntary participation of private landowners, Texas will use $5 million to begin placing hundreds of surveillance cameras along criminal hotspots and common routes used to enter this country. Perry said the cameras will cover vast stretches of farm and ranchland located directly on the border where criminal activity is known to occur, and “not the neighborhoods where families will continue to enjoy their privacy.”
“Landowners will be able to monitor and defend their property from those who might endanger their families. We will make the video feed available to state, local and federal law enforcement agencies so they can respond swiftly and appropriately,” Perry said. “And we will post this video on the Internet – in real time – so that concerned Americans can help protect our nation through online neighborhood watch programs.”
The video will be available 24 hours a day and cameras will be equipped with night vision capabilities. When citizens witness a crime taking place, they will be able to call an 800 number and be routed to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Perry said that border sheriffs and police officers serve on the front lines of America’s homeland security efforts, and that the Texas-Mexico border is becoming an increasingly dangerous and violent place for peace officers and the citizens they protect.
In recent months, state and local officers have engaged in armed standoffs, intense gun battles and high speed chases pursuing an enemy that is increasingly bold and determined. Perry also said that the consequences of a weak border are not limited to communities along the Rio Grande. Two months ago in Tyler, which is more than 500 miles from the border, a state trooper was shot multiple times by a violent criminal who was in this country illegally, despite having been deported on two previous occasions after facing weapon and drug charges. The officer survived, but Perry said the incident “should greatly concern citizens of other cities and other states.”
Additionally, a recently-concluded investigation by the Texas Rangers documents that on at least one occasion the Mexican military has crossed onto sovereign U.S. soil. Though this incident occurred several years ago, it raises new concerns about more recent events such as one that involved a standoff between sheriff’s deputies and armed men wearing Mexican military-style uniforms.
“Like all Americans, I find this terribly alarming and totally unacceptable. But what concerns me most is this: if our border cannot prevent the entry of foreign soldiers wearing clearly identifiable uniforms, what are the odds it will stop an enemy who wears no uniform, specializes in avoiding detection and spends every waking hour planning its next attack on America?” Perry said.
Federal intelligence sources have confirmed that Al Qaeda views the southern border as a prime point of entry into this country. Despite the clear threat, Perry said federal homeland security dollars have not followed that intelligence. Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that funding for Texas, the state with the longest international border, would be cut 31 percent from last year.
“This funding disparity, combined with continued federal inaction, jeopardizes our security and reinforces my belief that Texas must never wait for Washington to act,” Perry said.
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