team of 16 state prosecutors was established in 2009 to better handle and coordinate prosecution of border crimes. Funded by a $4 million grant from Gov. Rick Perry’s office, the border prosecution unit, or BPU, is a network of assistant district attorneys who collaborate with the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop investigations into organized crime along the border.Those prosecution and conviction numbers seem awfully high to me, given that the border region has the lowest crime rate of anywhere in the state, so I'd be interested to learn what's included. With all the cuts being made in education, mental health, nursing homes, etc., it's remarkable that this program so far remains funded. It's hard to tell without knowing more whether it's an essential strategy for going after drug cartels or just more Prosecutor Pork. Paying prosecutors is historically a county responsibility and lots of DA's offices would like to have the state pay for an extra ADA; which isn't to say the money is being spent on laudable activities. In El Paso, the grants are being used to investigate prison/street gang members of Barrio Azteca who have allegedly been acting as hit-men in Juarez and by some estimates may be responsible for half the deaths there. Elsewhere, prosecutors are working cases developed by DPS:
In its first year of existence, the BPU prosecuted 2,312 cases, leading to 1,304 convictions on border crimes involving weapons, drugs and human trafficking. But the task force’s leaders say those convictions are only the beginning as they delve into time-intensive investigations of criminal enterprises. And those investigations are likely to continue, with the $4 million grant — along with a host of other border security programs — being funded to previous levels in draft budgets despite the state’s financial straits.
[Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Ismael] Hinojosa, whose work as Cameron County’s border prosecutor resulted in almost 400 convictions the first year, said the BPU forged inter-jurisdictional cooperation in a "critical stage in the fight against the Mexican drug trafficking organizations."
While the grant provides at least one prosecutor in each jurisdiction, the BPU blurs the jurisdictional lines to allow district attorneys access to others if needed.Grits filed an open records request with the Governor's office for documentation related to this grant, so perhaps we'll have more detail on the BPU soon. In the meantime, Janes' article was instructive, though mostly voicing prosecutors' approbation for the program.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said that cooperation between individual prosecutors and DPS is the BPU’s hallmark, encouraging joint operations that recognize criminal activities often are spread across multiple counties. In Hidalgo County, Guerra’s border prosecutor frequently assists the three DPS divisions — the Texas Highway Patrol, the Texas Rangers and the Criminal Investigations Division — with legal expertise in developing cases.