"It sends a message: Don't mess with Texas," said Jose Rodriguez, Texas DPS Regional Commander.
The state is spending almost $3.5 million in tax money for six 34-foot gunboats, each which can operate in as little as two feet of water. The vessels are outfitted with automatic weapons and bulletproof shielding.
The state's first boat is scheduled to be launched next month to operate alongside the Border Patrol.Anytime someone in law enforcement says they're doing something to "send a message," much less in the same breath with the slogan "Don't Mess With Texas," that's a red flag for spending on worthless pork and PR-driven policing. The vast majority of contraband comes in through the checkpoints, not across the river. (According to a recent report by the Texas Border Coalition, "There is a mere 28 percent chance that a smuggler will get caught at the nation’s ports of entry, compared with a 90 percent of being detected between the ports of entry.") So why double down resources on the parts of the border - i.e., the stretches of river between the checkpoints - where smuggling has mostly been successfully restrained?
"One agency cannot do this alone," Rodriguez said.
The gunboats will be looking for suspicious scenes, like another one the DPS helicopter captured in December showing 10 men riding down the river and sitting on bundles of drugs that were no doubt destined for the U.S.
There's also real potential for creating unnecessary problems, starting the first time somebody fires off those automatic weapons toward the Mexican side of the river.
"Send a message" is code for "just for show." Patrolling the Rio Grande in crafts outfitted like Swift Boats headed up the river in Vietnam won't make anyone any safer or reduce the availability of drugs in the US, but the boat sure looks cool pictured there in the newspaper, doesn't it? And I suppose for the troopers it's more interesting duty than making traffic stops.