NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - East Texas is a long way from the Mexican border. Yet Texas Department of Public Safety troopers from East Texas do not distance themselves from its security. DPS troopers play a significant role in ongoing security operations along the Texas-Mexico border.
Operation Strong Safety is the border mission taking DPS Lt. Jimmy Jackson from Tyler and hundreds of other state troopers away from their commanding jurisdictions, families, and homes.
"All of our troopers are participating in it. All of them are going," said Lt. Jimmy Jackson, a DPS spokesman. "When they're going down there we're working long shifts. Troopers in every community are taking deployments. I made several deployments. Will make another one next month."
It's a controversial assignment, and troopers take no sides. Border security is a federal responsibility. However, in June of 2014 state political leaders ordered state troopers to the borders.
"The cartel want a foothold in Texas," Jackson said.
That Mexican cartel's infiltration makes it a Texas problem, contends political backers of using the state's land, air, and maritime saturation patrols.
Jackson is frequently asked, "Does it work?"
"We believe it is. Prior to starting Operation Strong Safety there's been between 74 and 85 percent decrease in the number of illegal aliens apprehended at the border since we started Strong Safety," Jackson said.
The debate questions if aliens and the cartel are simply selecting less accessible places along the border to cross or going to other states, something difficult to answer says Jackson. The veteran supervisor knows his job, along with other troopers, is to serve willingly, while hoping for a favorable solution.
"I hope one day we are able to staff that border where we don't have to go down there," Jackson said. "It would be nice to keep our local troopers in our local communities. We have work here to do."
In January, $86 million was budgeted to carry Operation Strong Safety possibly through August.
Jackson was a guest speaker at the Nacogdoches County Republican Women monthly luncheon. He fulfilled his speaking engagement after being up the night before conducting rescue efforts following the Van tornado.