DILLEY, Texas – Dilley police are dealing with a massive increase in the number of chases and human smuggling incidents over the past few months and say they would be overwhelmed without the help of Operation Lone Star.
The rural community of Dilley, 71 miles Southwest of San Antonio, is feeling the effects of human smuggling.
“Between January and May, we’ve actually had 26 pursuits that were ours,” said Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado.
Compared to the handful from last year, Dilley police say it’s concerning.
The stack of papers on Delgado’s desk details those cases.
“That’s what we were actually involved in, what we initiated. So for a town our size, 4,000 people, that’s unheard of in law enforcement,” Delgado said.
Dilley PD allowed us to ride along and see the amount of chases, stolen vehicles and human smuggling they’re seeing on a daily basis. They wouldn’t be able to keep up if it weren’t for #OperationLoneStar pic.twitter.com/qDRgd3WRSr— Leigh Waldman (@LeighWaldman) May 19, 2022
Delgado says that’s on top of the chases they’re called to assist.
“For over 25 years, I’ve never experienced this many pursuits we’re having on a daily basis,” he said.
One of the reasons is geography.
“We’re getting traffic from Eagle Pass, from Del Rio, from Laredo, and they all hit Dilley to hit (Interstate) 35 North,” Delgado said.
His department is made up of 13 full-time police officers and five on reserves.
Sgt. Adrian Ruiz has worked his way up in the ranks in a short time and helps place officers where they’re needed.
“I’ll stage one about half-mile out of town on stage, another one here at the intersection. If we have the resources, I’ll have an officer go and intercept the pursuit,” Ruiz said.
Those pursuits are tied to stolen vehicles used for trafficking and human smuggling, something Ruiz and other officers say they’re used to by now.
“That comes by that that trial by fire,” Ruiz said.
It used to be more challenging for the Dilley Police Department to manage the influx of chases until they started partnering with Operation Lone Star in February 2022.
“Before Operation Lone Star, we would have officers who were assigned to patrol, who were having to go and help out with these pursuits,” Delgado said.
With Operation Lone Star’s total grant of $380,000 over the next two years, Dilley officers can work overtime and have additional equipment at their disposal.
“Not only does it help curb the border crimes. It also helps to keep our communities safe because those officers who are supposed to be working patrol don’t have to go and cover the pursuits and the human smuggling,” Delgado said.
It’s up to each officer to decide if they would like to pick up additional Operation Lone Star shifts. Per law, they cannot work over 16 hours in one full day.
Since the partnership started, they’ve detained 58 undocumented migrants, three of whom were minors.
Delgado explained another 28 got away, and 10 suspects have been arrested for human smuggling.
The other part of Operation Lone Star’s mission is stopping illicit drugs.
Officers say they’re finding things like meth, marijuana, and some cocaine in vehicles or strapped to migrants themselves.