Willacy task force draws mixed reactions

RAYMONDVILLE — A new task force is drawing mixed reviews.

Law enforcement officials firmly stand behind the Willacy County Special Crimes Task Force.

But Lyford Mayor Wally Solis is concerned the unit could drain some of the officers in his small police department.

District Attorney Annette Hinojosa proposed the task force made up of her office’s investigators, the sheriff’s office and the Raymondville and Lyford police departments.

The task force was created to investigate major crimes, Raymondville Police Chief Uvaldo Zamora said yesterday.

“We’re pulling all our resources together,” Zamora said. “If I can use the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office and the Lyford PD, you’re looking at over 20 other law enforcement officers.”

Spence said the task force will offer the county’s law enforcement agencies more detectives to investigate major crimes such as drug operations.

“It’s a good deal. We’re going to try it out and see if it works,” Sheriff Larry Spence said earlier this week. “We’re working together to help each other out because most of us don’t have the manpower — especially investigators. It’s better than trying to do it alone. It’s much easier when you’ve got extra bodies to help.”

But Solis expressed concern the task force could sap officers from Lyford’s three-member police department.

“We’re short-staffed so I hope it doesn’t take away too much time,” Solis said. “I hope it doesn’t take away our officers from their duty. The citizens of Lyford are paying for our officers to serve the city of Lyford.”

Last Saturday, the task force launched its first assignment — raids on two Sebastian eight-liner arcades that led authorities to arrest nine employees.

During about three weeks of planning, the unit’s undercover investigation found the game rooms illegally paying out cash.

Spence said the task force provided enough law enforcement officers to launch two simultaneous raids.

Hinojosa proposed the task force to pull together the three law enforcement agency’s limited manpower.

“We’re still tweaking it,” Zamora said. “We have a lot to learn — a lot to put together.”

Spence said Hinojosa, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, oversees the task force.

“It’s mostly under her control,” Spence said. “This team is working under her umbrella.”

The task force is made up of a board consisting of officers from each department, Raymondville’s Zamora said.

Under an agreement, the agencies agree to equally split confiscated property after using seized assets to fund the task force’s operations.

Saturday’s game room raids netted $45,000 in cash.

Earlier this week, Lyford Police Chief Andres Maldonado agreed to participate in the task force.

“There exists a need to collaborate and combine law enforcement resources within Willacy County and the municipalities of Raymondville and Lyford to enhance the capabilities of law enforcement to prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute,” the agreement states.

According to the agreement, the law enforcement overseeing the area in which the crime occurred will take the lead role in investigations.

Under the agreement, the agencies will provide manpower and equipment to investigate crimes, participate in undercover operations and take part in criminal trials and prosecution.

Who’s in the task force?
  • Willacy County District Attorney’s Office
  • Willacy County Sheriff’s Office
  • Raymondville Police Department
  • Lyford Police Department