HIDALGO — Border Patrol leadership and the governor of Tamaulipas stood feet from the U.S.-Mexico border here Thursday to announce the launch of what the Rio Grande Valley’s sector chief called a “non-conventional approach” to border and community security.
Dubbed “Seguridad y Prosperidad,” or “Security and Prosperity,” the campaign focuses on increasing information sharing between residents and government officials on both sides of the border.
“We do a great job during emergencies,” said Manuel Padilla Jr., chief patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley sector. “When we have a very bad situation in Mexico or on the U.S. side, we come together very, very well. When it comes to involving the community in a bi-national manner looking at this area as one area of operations for the criminal organizations, we were not doing that well.
“Every time we have divisions between law enforcement and our partners in Mexico, this creates a safe haven for criminals to operate,” Padilla added, highlighting high rates of extortion, money laundering, kidnapping and drug and migrant smuggling in the border region.
At its core, the campaign encourages residents of the Valley and Tamaulipas to share tips, particularly about the whereabouts of individuals suspected to be involved in transnational criminal activity, via a telephone hotline monitored around the clock by Border Patrol agents, who will share leads with a bi-national team of law enforcement agents. The tip line, which consists of a toll free number and a Whatsapp number, is completely anonymous.
When asked what he would say to assuage any concerns undocumented individuals on the U.S. side of the border might have in terms of contacting the agency, Padilla said, “We can’t get into hypotheticals, but we do get a lot of information from the communities here.”
In terms of increasing public trust in the government, particularly in Mexico, Padilla said bi-national actions as a result of tips, such as arrests of members of criminal organizations, would be sufficient to restore public confidence in state authorities.
While there are no financial rewards for tips that lead to an arrest, “the biggest reward is if you look at Reynosa and you do a survey on how safe people feel, I think you know what the answer will be,” Padilla said, adding, “so that’s what we’re trying to focus on.”