It appears cartel drug traffickers have created a new central Texas drug corridor along the high-speed Texas State Highway 130 (SH130). The new toll road bypasses the congested area along 1-35 that runs through San Antonio to Austin corridor where police drug interdiction teams frequently work. Higher driving speeds and a lower law enforcement presence have made the highway an attractive route for smugglers coming out of South Texas.
SH130 operates with the nations highest speed limit, according to the Texas Tribune. Parts of the new toll road reach limits as high as 85 miles per hour. The company that operates the roadway appears to be in danger of going broke because of the lack of use.
This is a perfect situation for drug traffickers, according to law enforcement officials along the northern portion of the roadway, Williamson County. Fox 7 in Austin reports success in finding some of these traffickers and making arrests for smuggling drugs.
“Basically you can now mitigate travelling through San Antonio, New Braunfels, Austin, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, just every city along Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown and then drop in right to Dallas,” Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Captain Mike Gleason told Fox 7. “So you’ve defeated all interdiction units working that IH-35 by getting on a toll road that basically has no one on it.” He said law enforcement agencies are not required by law to patrol the toll roads. Patrols are normally accomplished through contracts with law enforcement agencies.
“We’ve had a banner year in the last 12 months, actually probably in the past two years,” Gleason explained. “Our loads have consisted of 20 plus gallons of meth oil, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds of marijuana.” He said that one load alone consisted of “12-20 pounds of methamphetamine, it’s a lot.”
Officials in the region are also complaining about a lack of state law enforcement resources in the area due to the surge operation that is underway along the Texas/Mexico border. Fox 7 cites Texas Department of Public Safety reports that say car crash fatalities in the area are up by as much as 71 percent over the past two years. They claim speeding tickets are also down by as much as 50 percent.
“When the troopers are not on the road, people don’t obey the laws, when they’re not obeying the laws, people die,” Williamson County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell told Fox 7. “They have made a decision at the Capitol to shift all of our assets to South Texas, and here in Central Texas in the past year, it’s cost us an additional 85 lives on the highway.”
Captain Gleason told Fox 7 that his deputies try to go out on SH130 when the roadways are less crowded in order to avoid dangerous super high-speed chases. “When it’s quiet on the radio and there’s nothing going on, then they’ll (his deputies) venture out there and go looking for mules,” Gleason said. He said the mules have noticed the lower state law enforcement presence and that gives them more freedom to operate.
“It sets a more dangerous tone because of the people you are dealing with,” Gleason stated. “The people that deal large numbers of narcotics, such as the mules that come out of the border area, they all normally all have cartel ties to them.”
In a response to an inquiry from Fox 7, the Texas DPS wrote:
“DPS was specifically directed by state leaders to begin the border surge in June 2014 to combat drug and human smuggling along the border.
Subsequently, DPS informed state leaders that the rotation of troopers from all across the state to the area of operation on the border was creating patrol gaps in other areas of the state. The Texas Legislature and Leadership responded by authorizing 250 additional trooper positions to be permanently stationed in the border area by August 2017.
It is important to note that all area law enforcement agencies play a role in reducing crashes in a given area, as does driver behavior. History has shown that most wrecks are preventable, so it is critical that all drivers pay close attention while driving and adhere to traffic laws at all times.
There is no evidence to suggest that border rotations played a role in the crashes you outlined.”
Read more from the Fox 7 report.
Bob Price serves as senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.