Border county sheriff’s text alerts warn residents, save lives


(The Center Square) – Kinney County Sheriff Chief Deputy Armando Garcia, a lifelong resident of Uvalde County, answered the call to serve in neighboring Kinney County and has been on the front lines of the border crisis for two years. In an effort to help residents in the rural remote border county, he created a text alert system that has helped save lives.

Garcia previously worked in the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement for over 30 years. He is running for Uvalde County sheriff in 2024.

In his entire career, Garcia said he’s never seen anything like what’s happening at the border. He’s also never experienced the kind of crime that’s occurring in the two border counties where he’s lived and worked his entire life, Garcia told The Center Square. “And I don’t see it getting better any time soon unless we change this administration,” he said, referring to the Biden administration.

The sheriff’s offices of Uvalde and Kinney counties have been grappling with border crimes for decades, but the last two years they’ve been inundated by illegal border crossers and human smugglers threatening the daily lives of residents, The Center Square has reported.

Garcia said the biggest change in the last two years is the “influx in migration of illegals from different countries being smuggled through or trespassing through to get where they’re going. Criminal mischief and burglaries have increased as they get desperate. They steal food, steal weapons if they’re accessible, even tractors,” he said. “We’re starting to see more causing havoc and damage to people’s property and their belongings.”

Earlier this year, Garcia and his deputies saved a 5-year-old girl who’d been stuffed in a trunk, The Center Square first reported. She was in a car full of people being smuggled to Houston. Garcia and two deputies revived her, saving her life.

“We’re starting to see more and more kids being accompanied by adults who they aren’t related to,” Garcia said. “The children have addresses and phone numbers they’re supposed to call when they reach their destination,” to connect with people who may or may not be their family members, he said.

The smugglers are primarily coming from Houston and San Antonio, he said, “but now also Oklahoma, California, Florida, Georgia, and for a while a lot from New York, some from New Jersey. Some have flown from California to San Antonio to rent a vehicle to smuggle people from one place to another.”

The price the cartels “are paying now is $4,000-$5,000 per head,” he said. “I saw one $10,000 or $11,000 per person,” which depends “on how important that person is to get through.”

He also pointed out that “a lot of times drivers aren’t even getting paid;” they often don’t get paid what they’re promised. Many who owe the money, those who are paying for the person to be smuggled into the country, “have property in the U.S. or Mexico and have signed deeds over to the cartel. If they don’t pay, the cartel take their property,” he explained.

In an effort to notify residents about potential threats, he initiated a free, text alert system. In November, the texts he sent totaled more than 1,000 words.

He started the text alert system early last year, he said, to serve several purposes. First, he notifies ranchers and residents who may have guests on their properties that he can’t reach. Second, he notifies them about smuggling pursuits to let everyone know when and where a pursuit is happening “in case they have family traveling in or out of the area to let them know to be careful.”

Third, “if illegals crash through property, the alerts let residents know so if we don’t immediately get ahold of the landowner, a neighbor can,” he explained. Oftentimes residents scramble together to mend a torn down fence to prevent livestock from getting out.

Fourth, when school is in session and a smuggling pursuit or bailout occurs in Brackettville, after the alert goes out “the school immediately goes on lock down. Deputies are also sent to the school for extra security,” he said. Two deputies are assigned full time as school resource officers.

In one instance, Garcia sent out a text alert as soon as he heard of a Texas DPS pursuit in town. “The pursuit led to a bailout right in front of the school where several illegals tried to enter the school but were unable to because the doors and gates were locked.”

The text alerts warn of danger, but in a small county of 3,000 people, they also provide a way for the community to work together and notify each other, he said. Residents have thanked him for mentioning the name of a ranch or property in the text alerts because they then know where to go and check on the property, he said.

The system has been so effective, and others have inquired about it, that Garcia is in the process of helping other counties set up a similar text alert system.

Submit a Comment