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Operation Border Star

During the 2007 legislative session, $110 million was appropriated at Governor Perry’s urging for border law enforcement agencies to combat drug smuggling and gang activity. How’s that working out?

The state’s $110 million Border Star program, designed to help local authorities combat violent crime and drug smuggling, has been ineffective and a waste of resources, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said Wednesday.

In a study of 11 of the 40 border law enforcement agencies participating in the program, the group said authorities were stopping and searching thousands of vehicles but making few drug seizures and arrests. Also, it said, the 13 surveillance cameras set up on the border – a $2 million investment – netted just three arrests in their first six months of operation.

The ACLU said Operation Border Star’s performance measures encourage law officers to engage in work that doesn’t truly protect Texans from drug crime and emphasize geographic areas other than major drug corridors.

What resulted “was a disruption of the lives of ordinary citizens,” said ACLU policy analyst Laura Martin, who noted that the 29 other police and sheriff’s departments in Border Star didn’t respond to the request for information.

Program supporters say that although it may not have recorded great numbers of drug arrests, it’s a deterrent. And they said the departments studied by the ACLU account for just $5 million of the $110 million allocated and aren’t a representative sample.

“It’s proven that more boots on the ground disrupt and deter criminal activity along the border,” said Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. “The governor believes that Operation Border Star and the state-led border security efforts are working.”

There’s that deterrent rationale again. Amazing what you can justify by claiming things would have been worse had you not spent all that money.

I read this story and I think about the people who apply for food stamps and CHIP and stuff like that who have to fill out numerous forms and submit to interviews and investigations to prove that they really need those funds. For just about every social program that we spend money on in this state, lawmakers demand to see results to justify that spending. Teachers are held accountable nine ways to Sunday for what goes on in their classrooms. But we drop a hundred million bucks on border security funds, and we’re supposed to accept Governor Perry’s faith that it’s making a difference? Where are the metrics and the reviews and the progress reports? I don’t get it. Stace has more.

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