Hidalgo County reports rise in home invasions, kidnappings

Task force created to combat rising crime rates

SAN JUAN, Texas – Home invasions, kidnappings and extortion are on the rise in Hidalgo County.

The criminal activity has forced the San Juan Police Department to create a specialized unit called HIKE, named after the three areas of crime they're targeting.

The HIKE task force is made up of eight investigators from eight neighboring police agencies dedicated to solving home invasions, kidnappings and extortion.

"We want to make sure that we aren't just responding to crimes any more," said San Juan police Sgt. Rolando Garcia. "We want to be able to have a group that's going to be building up intelligence, stockpiling information."

Garcia said stash houses, whether used for human- or drug-trafficking, is often times how it all begins.

"We are trying to find out those locations, but at the same time, the bad guys are as well, so they have home invasions, they go in there dressed as law enforcement and it creates a problem for us," Garcia said.

In 2013, Hidalgo County reported 10 kidnappings.

In 2014, that number went to 14 and there's no sign of it slowing down in 2015.

"There is spillover violence. We've had a number of incidents here that are directly linked to either one form or another of whatever drug-trafficking organization in Mexico," said Garcia.

The HIKE team has hit the ground running, helping to solve a kidnapping-turned-murder just a few weeks ago.

The newly created task force is currently in the process of applying for a federal grant to continue their efforts and acquire some high-tech gear to help with their investigations.