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A new border security approach in Southern Texas has yielded an unexpected consequence: a spike in traffic stops – and tickets – in two counties near the Texas-Mexico border.
According to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News, the intensified border enforcement promoted by the Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for a 30 percent increase in the number of traffic citation in both Starr and Hidalgo counties — that is nearly 8 percent of all traffic tickets issued in Texas in September.
The number of warnings spiked as much as 160 percent in those counties.
According the Dallas paper, the biggest increases in tickets were for driving without a license, or an invalid one, while the biggest jumps in warnings came for speeding and issues involving taillights, headlights and license plate infractions.
The analysis comes as the Department of Public Safety is preparing to ask the Texas Legislature for an unprecedented $1.1 billion in border security funding for the next two years.
The state began intensified border enforcement in 2014 in response to a surge of illegal immigration and cartel activity. Last year, the Legislature committed $800 million to back that enforcement campaign, including the hiring of 250 more state troopers to work the border.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw has no regrets. If a trooper sees a traffic violation, "they are going to respond to it," he said. Furthermore, drug cartel scouts "deliberately engage law enforcement on our roadways as decoys," he said.
But others are criticizing the measure.
"It's not fair that families in Starr County are being scrutinized at a greater level than families in pretty much any other county in the state," said Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande Valley.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.