Crystal City – Towing companies in rural counties on the south Texas border are busy trailing behind law enforcement agencies that are investigating human smuggling cases.
Gustavo Jimenez III, with Tavo’s Towing LLC, out of Crystal City, services four counties. He said he used to average about two to three stolen vehicles a week.
Now, he’s hauling 50 vehicles a week, he said. About half of the time, he said the vehicles are wrecked.
“Some, they wind up getting totaled or rolled over or they hit a dive off a creek and airbags deploy. I mean, and you see the owners of these vehicles that want to come and see their trucks and they literally almost cry,” he explains.
He says these types of tows are often taxing, time consuming and costly. Sometimes, he ends up losing money on the tows as well.
“If it’s in the brush, you’re looking at anywhere between $500 and $1,000. If we have to use special equipment, it goes up,” he explains.
Zavala County Sheriff Eusevio Salinas Jr. said many of the vehicles stolen from major cities across Texas are being used to smuggle people. Many of them have been involved in chases and drivers are pretty reckless.
“They jump into the brush. They burned the vehicle to the ground,” said Salinas.
He said sometimes the back seats are taken out so more people can fit into the vehicle.
In March, Salinas said they recovered 69 vehicles that were either stolen or involved in bailouts, where all the occupants jumped out of the vehicle when officers tried to pull them over.
Jimenez said he recently started sending two people in calls where vehicles were involved in human smuggling, for the safety of his staff.