Gov. Rick Perry today was joined by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and local law enforcement to reiterate the importance of border security and outline the state’s efforts to combat the increasing transnational gang threat in Texas communities.
“Texas continues to deal with the challenges arising from the federal government’s failure to secure our international border by implementing our own proven border security efforts,” Gov. Perry said. “In addition to the Ranger Recon Teams and funding for the Virtual Border Watch program announced last week, I am proud that the Legislature has provided $110 million to equip our law enforcement community with the tools and resources necessary to fight the spread of transnational gangs in our state.”
The governor touted legislation passed in the 81st Session, including House Bill 2086, an omnibus gang bill that provides state and local law enforcement agencies with additional tools to combat the threat of transnational gangs. These resources include electronic monitoring of criminal gang members who have two or more convictions; penalties for engaging in organized crime activity in gang free zones; and enhanced surveillance capabilities, among others. Additionally, House Bill 2187 modifies the penalty for recruiting a person into a criminal street gang.
Transnational gangs such as Barrio Azteca, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, Mexican Mafia and Texas Syndicate engage in a myriad of crimes, including human smuggling, robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder and weapons trafficking.
Increased security along the Texas-Mexico border has forced the Gulf, Sinaloa, Zeta and Juarez cartels to employ these violent transnational gangs to carry out and support their operations on both sides of the border. These highly adaptive organizations operate in every region of the state, recruiting from our schools and prisons and using the most up-to-date technology to thwart law enforcement efforts.
To address the growing threat of these gangs, Gov. Perry has implemented a multi-jurisdictional gang strategy that focuses on:
• Sharing vital gang information across the state and at all levels of law enforcement by integrating gang information databases and obtaining access to federal gang-related data from federal agencies
• Centralizing gang intelligence by establishing a multi-agency gang intelligence section within the Texas Fusion Center and maintaining a full time local and federal presence in the center
• Expanding local law enforcement gang operations in identified hotspots by providing grant funding that can pay for overtime enforcement in high-threat areas
• Increasing investigative and prosecutorial resources that target mid- and upper-level gang leadership
• Enacting legislation that arms law enforcement with essential gang fighting tools like license plate readers, suspended driver’s license penalties, electronic monitoring of paroled gang members and gang free zones
• Expanding gang prevention activities that educate parents, teachers and neighborhood leaders on the threats gangs pose to our schools and communities
Gov. Perry announced the expansion of the state’s homeland security strategy during the 81st Legislative Session, which the Legislature supported by allocating $15.4 million for gang operations, including funding for overtime and full time employees for Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as funding to be allocated by the Governor’s Office for gang enforcement patrols, multi-jurisdictional investigations, gang prevention grants and gang-related prosecutions.
In October 2008, Governor Perry announced the first round of funding to combat the emerging threat of transnational gangs by providing $4 million to local law enforcement in areas around the state known to be gang hot spots, including Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Irving. These funds were used as overtime pay for officers who patrol hot spots of gang activity.
For more information about transnational gangs and the governor’s border security strategy, please visit http://governor.state.tx.us/priorities/security/.