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Texas border czar: Operation Lone Star task force expands to build on successes

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(The Center Square) – An Operation Lone Star task force that has seen a number of successes is expanding throughout the state to combat cartel and gang crime, led by Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd.

Law enforcement officials from over 30 agencies met for an operational meeting this week to discuss future goals as well as expansion efforts with Texas Border Czar Mike Banks.

The Center Square has reported exclusively on Boyd’s task force operations since the multi-agency initiative was launched in 2022.

Initially, the OLS Task Force involved 20 agencies, including 12 sheriff’s offices, seven city police departments and a county attorney’s task force. Their focus was to identify and block illegal activity heading from the border north to Houston using interstates and county roads, and attempting to hide people, drugs, weapons and contraband in rural, remote areas along the way.

Task Force operations expanded over time from apprehending human smugglers and gotaways to the successful fruition of a two-year investigation into a transnational criminal organization: taking down their entire upper and middle management. Cartel and gang operatives were smuggling 100,000 people a year from the border north along the Highway 59 corridor, Boyd said.

“Dismantling that organization took Goliad from being in a high-speed pursuit of human smugglers three to five times a week to having not a single bailout in 2023. That’s phenomenal. Those are the kind of results that we’re looking to keep,” he said, adding that they wanted to expand those efforts to other counties.

The goal of the task force is for “all of us to come together and get them out of our counties and Texas. Our overall goal is to deny the ability of the transnational criminal organization from making a profit so that they’ll go to New Mexico” and further west, he said.

“The goal is to come together and really hurt the cartels in their operations here in the state of Texas to the point where it’s no longer profitable.”

A key player in dismantling the smuggling operation was Steve Greenwell, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations supervisory special agent, Boyd told The Center Square. Boyd has endorsed Greenwell, who is running for Lavaca County Sheriff.

Initial OLS Task Force operations stretch from Kerr County in the Hill Country to the Gulf of Mexico, having now expanded to 30 agencies in over 20 counties with the support of Gov. Greg Abbott and Banks.

Targeted operations will focus in three regions. Operation Lone Star Task Force West will include an initial five counties led by Wilson County Sheriff Jim Stewart.

Operation Lone Star in the Greater Houston area will be led by San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers and includes counties hoping to block illegal activity coming out of Houston and Harris County. Democratic leaders there have advanced “sanctuary” policies and lax enforcement against crime. The newly elected mayor of Houston has taken a tougher stance on crime.

Operation Lone Star Task Force Central will be led by McClellan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who has already created a model for combating human trafficking in his county and in Texas.

Banks applauded their efforts, saying the results are “phenomenal.” He reiterated what he’s told The Center Square, the efforts of OLS “are working,” moving illegal entry west to New Mexico, Arizona and California.

He also said the OLS Task Force “has really laid out a best practice for how OLS funds should be used,” referring to OLS grants allocated by the Texas Legislature. While the bulk of state border security funds go to the Texas Military Department and Texas Department of Public Safety, a small portion goes to local law enforcement.

But with small, limited resources, they’ve been able to accomplish unprecedented results, Banks said, reiterating what he observed during a recent operation in Zapata County last month.

Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque, the most recent and first border county sheriff to join the OLS Task Force, told The Center Square, “Without Operation Lone Star funding it would be a roller coaster ride. We would be tired with no boots on the ground. We would be overwhelmed with people without resources, and without equipment we’d be losing the battle.”

Task force members are focused on criminal networks that don’t stay at the border but are determined to reach major cartel hubs in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. In Wharton County, an hour south of Houston, sheriff’s deputies have been acting as the last line of defense since Fort Bend County isn’t participating in the task force.

Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar, an original member of Boyd’s task force, told The Center Square, “There has never been a greater need for local law enforcement to join forces and combat against the lawlessness of open border policies. The crisis affects every single county in the state of Texas, especially when addressing the drugs and poison that end up in our communities. These criminal organizations use major highways, state roads, county roads, and private roads as a passageway to get these drugs and human smuggling loads to their destination. No travel route is exempt from these organizations.”

Building on their efforts, Banks said, “Right now is the time to push even harder.”