Trafficking along the Rio Grande, and the violence associated with it, is relentless and ever-evolving. Border security is consistently met with the challenge to stay one step ahead.
Thursday afternoon, Fox 2 was the only station in the Rio Grande Valley given exclusive access to see the most recent weapon; a high-powered DPS Patrol Boat, unmatched in combating crime along the border.
Vicki Gonzalez has more.
Security along the Texas border has become synonymous with national security. And with that, patrolling along the Rio Grande has not only increased, but branched out, including agencies at the local, state, and federal level.
One of the newest additions is the Texas Department of Public and Safety Tactical Marine Unit.
On Thursday, DPS unrelieved a vessel with the sole goal of stopping criminals and smugglers from entering the state border.
The first thing you feel when getting on this vessel is the sheer magnitude, stocked with six full-auatic firearms, capable of firing 900 rounds a minute.
This is the fourth of six shallow-water vessels that will patrol the Rio Grande. Each has special significance… Named after a fallen state DPS Trooper. And it is an unparalleled defense at 34-feet long, it is capable of traveling at speeds as fast as 65 mph, and in as little as 12 inches of water.
Lieutenant Charlie Goble has worked the area for the past 18 years, and knows first-hand how the border has evolved.
“It’s steadily increasing and we have to adapt,” said Lieutenant Charlie Goble, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper.
At times, the Rio Grande makes the distance between Mexico and the U.S. a mere hundreds of feet away. And that distance, or lack thereof, can be an asset to Mexican drug trafficking when evading U.S. Officers.
DPS says that since 2009, there have been 65 cartel-related splashdowns; a technique used by smugglers to drive their vehicle into the river, where boat-retrieval teams from Mexico recover the drug loads.
On a daily basis, border authorities along the Rio Grande have a unique perspective, an ever-present threat that is consistently visible with the naked eye.
These vessels are one of several major steps authorities are taking to stay ahead of those looking to take control of the border.
DPS Spokesperson Johnny Hernandez says, fully-outfitted, each patrol boat costs $580,000. That’s paid for by the state legislature and homeland security grants.