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Deployment of Troopers to Border Linked to Increase in Traffic Fatalities

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Alexandrea Messner2 years ago

A recent investigation has found a correlation between the rates of tickets being issued and an increase in the number of traffic fatalities throughout Texas.

Investigative Journalism Reveals Spike in Traffic Fatalities

“Every time you go to a traffic accident and I have to call or go see a mama that lost her baby, I cry with them. In my mind, I have a blackboard and I try very hard to erase the blackboard, and just use the facts because otherwise you live with those images… People have to slow down, everybody has to be responsible.” – Williamson County Justice of the Peace Judy Hobbs as published by FOX 7

For the past three months, FOX 7 has been conducting an investigation regarding the rise of crash fatalities on Texas highways. What they found was that as the amount of traffic tickets issued dropped, there was a sharp increase in the numbeer of crash fatalities.

This leads to the question: are these issues related to the DPS Trooper deployment to the Texas/Mexico Border?

Judy Hobbs and Bill Gravell are Justices of the Peace in Williamson County where there were six fatalities were recorded over a three week period from mid-July to early August. They make up half of the four J.P.s in the county who certify deaths.

Gravell and Hobbs believe that the reason that the issuance of speeding tickets has dropped nearly fifty percent in their area over the past two years is because of the deployment of DPS troopers, who are responsible for patrolling the highways.

Gravell believes that the deployment of troopers is leaving the Central Texas Highways vulnerable, as troopers are overworked and spread thin.

Hobbs also added that this pushes back the hearings for the traffic cases, “”If the trooper has deployed down to the border then the prosecutor doesn't have their primary witness so they have to ask for a continuance until the trooper comes back, then we have to wait until we can fit it into our slot.”

Williamson County Findings Point to Larger Issue

“It's a pretty simple cause and effect, when the troopers are not on the road people don't obey the laws, when they're not obeying the laws people die.” Williamson County Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell as published by FOX 7

Tickets are not only down in Williamson County, but across the entire state – by the thousands. The decrease could be up to 200 percent by the end of this year.

According to a DPS Highway Safety Report, there have been 2,726 crashes on DPS patrolled highways in Central Texas over the past year, resulting in 152 deaths; on urban roads there have been 26,342 crashes with a total of 130 deaths. This is a 71 percent increase over the past two years.

Although some attribute the rise in accidents to the rise in population in Williamson County, Gravell does not believe the two are related. “More people are dying on a daily basis in Central Texas than we've ever seen before, and the increase is absolutely not proportional to the population increase,” said Gravell

Through an Open Records request, FOX 7 also discovered an internal email regarding the DPS and its Director. The email contained a quote from a Department of Family and Protective Services Employee stating, “and as Colonel McCraw has previously testified several parts of Texas are already having less DPS patrol coverage right now because their priority is border security.”

Response from the DPS

According to internal DPS Highway reports, state highway fatalities are up all across Texas, except for the border regions where they have actually decreased by 34% in the past two years.

The Department of Safety issued a statement to FOX 7 stating:

“DPS was specifically directed by state leaders to begin the border surge in June 2014 to combat drug and human smuggling along the border. Subsequently, DPS informed state leaders that the rotation of troopers from all across the state to the area of operation on the border was creating patrol gaps in other areas of the state. The Texas Legislature and leadership responded by authorizing 250 additional trooper positions to be permanently stationed in the border area by August 2017.

It is important to note that all area law enforcement agencies play a role in reducing crashes in a given area, as does driver behavior. History has shown that most wrecks are preventable, so it is critical that all drivers pay close attention while driving and adhere to traffic laws at all times. There is no evidence to suggest that border rotations played a role in the crashes you outlined.”


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