Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DPS border 'surge' compromised crime fighting in rest of state

Who is surprised to learn that the border "surge" by the Texas Department of Public Safety "compromised the Department of Public Safety’s ability to combat crimes elsewhere"? Or so the agency told the governor and state leaders in a secret assessment which was leaked to the Houston Chronicle.

According to the paper, "While the report gave more detail than has been publicly released about the claim often made by [Lt. Gov. Dan] Patrick and other state leaders that the deployment has reduced crime, it focused on illegal crossings and cartel activity in the operation zone, providing less detail about local crimes and leaving open the possibility that criminals have simply shifted their efforts elsewhere." The story noted dryly that "some experts have attributed [the reduction in illegal crossings] to other factors," which is a pretty dramatic understatement. The border was already the safest region in the state before DPS began any "surge" operations, which is probably why the agency didn't even attempt to claim it reduced crime in the area - any such claim would inevitably run afoul of contradictory Uniform Crime Report data in the medium to long term. We've been around this block many times.

The Texas Senate has proposed spending an astonishing $815 million over the next biennium on border security above and beyond regular DPS patrols in the area. That's an insanely large amount of money being funneled down a black hole. Grits has suggested the state could abolish the Driver Responsibility surcharge with a portion of that money and still spend well more than double what was budgeted last biennium on border security.

There's no public safety justification for spending that much at the border. Thumbing the state's collective nose at a president who will never again run for re-election just isn't worth that much scratch, and at root that's the only reason this is happening.

MORE: From Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle:
Even the Legislative Budget Board, which is charged with making recommendations to lawmakers on spending, has acknowledged there's no way for it to measure progress toward the border security goal

A "law enforcement sensitive" report issued to lawmakers and obtained by the Chronicle on Tuesday offers little clarity, just page after page of anecdotes and unsubstantiated or ill-defined numbers. In it, DPS gives Operation Strong Safety II, as it is called, full credit for the dramatic reduction in last summer's border apprehensions, even though federal efforts to stem the tide of unaccompanied minors were well underway.

The one thing the report is clear about: The operation "does not secure the border." I think we knew that.


Anonymous said...

I can't prove it but I just know that a portion of the funds earmarked for this project are being funneled into the hands of Perry's cronies.

While it's a good political statement that the republicans will no doubt get some mileage out of, there's no way that they would do it unless someone was getting a kickback somewhere down the line.

Anonymous said...

That entire agency is a black hole. The only true value is the local expertise brought by the Rangers to rural agencies and the traffic enforcement responsibilities of the Highway Patrol. All other functions should be relegated to local jurisdictions. These are the ONLY measurable benefits to Texas citizens. This is an agency that needs a reset from top to bottom as it is merely a Republican tool present day. That tool is wasting billions better used elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Local expertise brought by the Rangers..." You're kidding, right? Where do you think a Ranger gets educated in investigations? From formerly driving a marked cruiser on the interstate? For years a Ranger was assigned to the Ft. Bend SO (the retired sheriff was a former Ranger) to learn investigative techniques. Don't think that has changed.

Think about it. The Rangers are restricted to hiring from the DPS force, primarily a highway patrol, to fill their investigative force - which requires an unrelated set of job skills.

Anonymous said...

Of course some of the money went to pay off cronies, that is standard no matter who is in office or what division is being discussed.

And by cutting back what DPS does across the state in terms of providing law enforcement, crime labs and the like, pushing it off to local jurisdictions is just another way of forcing tougher choices on cities and counties already saddle heavy with unfunded mandates.

But Grits, any changes in what becomes a top priority means something else suffers. With Houston, spending tons of money on old rape kits meant that more current crime divisions lost funding and people. The big success story hailed in the Chronicle today only means that fresher rape cases were pushed harder to boost the total numbers, by all means go ahead and ask DA Anderson what year each case was originally reported in to find it was a dog and pony show all along. The same money shuffling used to "protect the border" was money not spent following up on existing leads or prosecuting other crimes; that is the essence of budgeting.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@6:36, I agree with your analysis of border spending, but the Houston rape kit backlog was done with grant money. That part doesn't ring true to me.

Simran said...

There's no need for having extra troopers. Also, what I dislike about here in Hidalgo County is that we have these "drug task-forces." For what? Leave this stuff up to local police. Just a waste of tax payer dollars, and locking up who don't need to be locked up.

Anonymous said...

Grits, sending out the kits was partially supported by grant money, city coffers paying the rest. From the backlogged kits, the city paid about half with later kits not covered by the grant as they were fresh. In the bigger picture, grant money used on anything that can't be prosecuted here is money that will not be available elsewhere for similar but more current use too. But those costs are only a small part of the equation, hence the need to shift significant investigative resources from other divisions to staff the effort. Ask the city just where those investigators came from to see other impacts but they are still working on it.

The quotes the mayor was making were curious too, like when she stated testing a particular older kit linked a serial rapist responsible for all sorts of rapes. Well, if that one kit matched a bunch of other DNA profiles, just how come none of those profiles matched each other independently? She must really think people are idiots to believe such but the more she talked, the clearer it became she was talking from anecdotes provided by someone else without a clue, not a convincing tale to be told.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in south Texas it use to be simple, poor people came north looking for work and returned south after working to bring money to their families. Now private prisons figured out how to make money off the working poor by incarcerating them them with Operation Streamline. The private prison industry bribed key US Justice Department officials by offering them retirement jobs that far exceeded their government bureaucratic pay. I'm shocked that some Republicans are not revolting against this massive fiscal irresponsible border surge. Where are the big business groups too??? Don't they use temp labor and hired the working poor from down south???? Why is the media not reporting the massive contribution corporation such as The Geo Group have given our key politicians, including Greg Abbott. If the Republicans don't clean up their own party and stop trying to expand government they will lose their base.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"grant money used on anything that can't be prosecuted here is money that will not be available elsewhere"

Not really, Houston was one of two jurisdictions nationally that got grants to do pilot projects to see what would happen if you comprehensively test the backlog so they could have data to judge protocols going forward for when testing is and isn't appropriate. That funding would not have been available for other stuff in Houston, only to other cities for the same purpose.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I think you are agreeing with him. Money is a limited resource so if a grant is used by one jurisdiction on cases without complainants, on cases that were confessed to, or otherwise outside the statute of limitations, it is grant money ANOTHER community can't use for more current rape kits to be tested. Many of us not involved in the criminal justice system are growing quite weary of endless demands for more tax dollars, as such thinking focusing money or other resources on catching criminals that can be prosecuted for crimes against people and locked up in real time while pouring money into old cases or low level drug junk just a waste.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No, I'm not agreeing with him. The feds gave two jurisdictions grants to do pilot programs to comprehensively test backlogs - Houston and if memory serves, Detroit. The goal was to develop data and experience-driven protocols so going forward, other jurisdictions could know which testing to prioritize and in which cases they needn't bother.

This was uncharted territory. This sort of pilot had to occur for there to be a valid basis to make those judgments. If Houston hadn't gotten the grant, it's NOT the case they could have gotten the same money for something else. Some other jurisdiction would have gotten the money, done the research piece, then Houston would have to follow their lead on its own dime thanks to a state law passed in 2011.

Finally, given that they caught serial rapists as a result of the exercise, it's hard for me to understand why the lawnorder types are complaining so much about it.

Anonymous said...

Grits, this is Anon 2/26/2015 01:43:00 AM,
I believe you are mistaken about the grants. Yes, grantS, because the initial pilot program grant was not the same grant that netted the city of Houston $2.2 million to test all the kits with the city providing the rest of the money.

The first grant was fussed about by most wanting the kits tested because it did not use the money for such testing, the second grant requiring the city to pony up the rest of the money and bolster the unit processing the results. I wasn't complaining that Houston would not be able to spend the money on something else, only that other communities had better claims to grant money if they were to use it on more recent kits.

As far as the admonishment based on political BS espoused by the Mayor, nobody really believes the mayor's claims about catching serial rapists with a newly tested kit matching so many other previously tested kits that did not match each other. Surely you know more about DNA testing than that, each of those previously tested kits should have matched each other or you'd be screaming from the UT Tower how a new test matched all sorts of previous kits that showed no signs of matches before.

Further, go ahead and ask the city how many of those recently charged with some form of sexual assault were from old kits (none), the suspects coming from far newer kits tossed into the mix to bolster the positive results. Those newer kits would have been tested regardless of the new law or testing of old kits. And you think the GOP is going to close prisons down to save a couple bucks each...sheesh.