Investigators believe eradication efforts on the border are causing members of the drug cartel to re-think their strategy of smuggling drugs into the U.S.
Many parts of our seven county region of the Brazos Valley consist of very rural areas -- all of which authorities say have become a prime location for major Marijuana growing operations.
The Brazos Valley might be a long way from the U.S.-Mexico border, but some parts of our seven county regions have become home to drug traffickers from Mexico.
“It's the perfect area for what they're looking for,” said Madison County Sheriff Travis Neely.
The rural land, easy access to major highways and interstates -- in conjunction with easy access to a steady water supply -- make for the perfect ingredients to a lucrative marijuana growing operation.
"There are so many isolated spots that are so sparsely accessible,” said Neeley. “I mean there are no neighbors nearby so it offers the perfect environment for this type of operation."
And it's turned into a multi-billion dollar a year business. -- Especially during this time of year.
Neeley: It's growing season; I mean it's prime production season for marijuana.
In the last two years local authorities have seized nearly 100 million dollars from marijuana farms tucked away in at least six of our seven county regions.
Since 2011 the Washington County Sheriff's office has uncovered three pot farms, totaling some 56,000 plants -- worth $83-million.
Meanwhile right next door, in 2011, 2000 plants were discovered on FM 50 in Burleson County in 2011. Rewind two years ago to August 23 in Montgomery County where a hunter looking for wild hogs in the Sam Houston National Forest stumbled upon ten-thousand marijuana plants.
That same year, with assistance from a DPS helicopter, Robertson County Sheriff's Deputies discovered more than 1300 marijuana plants from a 20-acre area in the southern part of the county, near Benchley. The street value was estimated at $400,000.
Five suspects were arrested in November 2011 when 2,100 plants were seized from a rural property in Leon County. And fast forward to this weekend where hunters clearing out land in Madison County near Midway discovered more than 18, 000 plants growing in land they were leasing. DPS Investigators say the pot was worth $9-million.
Law Enforcement Presence on the Border
On Thursday, July 11th, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers responded to multiple incidents that took place on the Texas-Mexico border.
According to preliminary information, the first incident occurred early Thursday afternoon, when a Texas Rangers’ boat responded to a “shots fired” call by the U.S. Border Patrol on the Rio Grande River. After arriving at the scene, the Rangers observed that the Border Patrol agents had taken cover inside their boat while pointing across the river toward individuals on the Mexico side believed to be responsible for the shots fired. Rangers then launched tear gas rounds in the direction of the individuals in Mexico, who vacated the area.
Later in the afternoon in a separate incident, a DPS Tactical Marine Unit (TMU) team was patrolling the river, when they came upon a raft that was nearing the U.S. shore, and observed multiple subjects aboard. As the TMU team approached, the subjects abandoned the raft and swam to Mexico. The TMU team seized the raft, which was on the U.S. side and contained several bundles of marijuana, totaling approximately 1,100 pounds.
Around the same time, at approximately 5 p.m. CT, the Texas Rangers’ boat responded to assist with the marijuana seizure incident. While en route, the Rangers’ boat was fired upon from Mexico. DPS officers aboard the Rangers’ boat returned fire, at which time the subjects in Mexico vacated the area. (The TMU patrol vessel was not present at the time of this particular shooting.)
No injuries were reported in all three incidents. Additionally, no charges have been filed in these cases, as all subjects fled into Mexico. While these incidents occurred in the South Texas area, the specific locations will not be released at this time for security purposes.
It's a war being fought on both sides of the border -- but one that's now being fought too close to home. At least a dozen suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the pot farm operations in the Brazos Valley since 2011.