The Texas National Guard (TNG) recently completed its third “Operation Crackdown” operation in the border town of Laredo. The program provides assistance in clearing out properties proven to be connected to the drug trade. During this two-week operation, members of the TNG Counterdrug Task Force demolished twenty-six structures for the city.
As part of the task force, TNG engineering soldiers come into a community where they have been invited by city officials to provide assistance in clearing buildings that have been used in the drug trade. The latest operation took place from April 29 to May 15, information provided to Breitbart Texas by the TNG this week revealed.
In the latest “Operation Crackdown” engineers from the TNG destroyed 26 structures including homes and other buildings connected to drug trafficking and distribution. Since the program was conceived in 1993 under then Governor Ann Richards, the operation is responsible for the destruction of over 1,500 structures including homes, abandoned warehouses, and even a former nursing home.
“What has gone on over the years that we’ve noticed is that once these structures go down, the crime goes down (in that neighborhood),” Laredo Police Chief Ray Garner said about the program’s history. “If you take a look at the history of Operation Crackdown and go back and look at some of the addresses that have been taken care of, you’ll see new homes up there, you’ll see a cleaner neighborhood and that’s the important thing.”
The program is not just about the destruction of property drug traffickers use in their criminal operations. It is also about educating children about drug related issues, and providing a cleaner and safer community in which they can grow up.
During this particular operation, fifth grade students from Laredo’s J.C. Elementary School attended an anti-drug demonstration from the TNG and the Laredo Police Department.
“Keeping our kids safe is more than a priority,” Laredo Independent School District Superintendent Dr. A. Marcus Nelson told the TNG staff. “If we don’t come together and focus on keeping them safe, there are a lot of people who will try and hurt them. The fact that we come and tear down this house is such a strong message to those who want to try and hurt or harm our children – and the message is so clear. The message is that we will not tolerate those who seek to endanger our children in any way.”
About two dozen students were chosen from the school to participate. One of the fifth grade teachers, Carolina Banderas, told TNG officials, “We are thankful and grateful for your interest and hard work in helping clean up our neighborhood and helping save us from drugs. Our school year is ending and we are looking forward to a clean and safe environment at the middle school next year. Many of us will walk to school and expect to be safe.”
The TNG participates in these operations at the request of the hosting city and after a thorough application process has been completed. “This is a very rigorous process,” Jesus Olivares, Laredo city manager, said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “It’s a process that involves a lot of investigating done by the police department, building department, community development and those involved with the U.S. Border Patrol. A total of 76 structures have been demolished in the city through Operation Crackdown.”
The city must show the structure has a connection to the drug trade. After approval through the selection process the city must obtain approval from the building owner before demolition can begin. In order to ensure the safety of the community and the engineers involved in the process, the structure must be inspected for any hazardous materials before demolition can begin. Law enforcement personnel must be present before the TNG arrives on the scene.
Each operation costs about $30,000 to complete. Task Force Commander, Colonel Suzanne Adkinson said, “We’re using drug money and funnel it back into the community to knock down drug houses.”
In addition to providing a service to the local community, the program offers real world training and experience for the soldiers. Each year, the TNG participates in four of these operations. This is the third one for the city of Laredo.
Earlier this year, a similar program was conducted in the border community of Harlingen. The next program is scheduled to take place in Dallas.