Jim Wells County deputies on patrol on county roads have increased from three to eight and sometimes up to a dozen daily thanks to the Border Star grant of $206,000.

“It gives us more manpower on the road and we are able to protect the community and do more of what we can with the people that we have,” Sheriff Oscar Lopez said.

The Jim Wells County Sheriff’s Department received $206,000 to assist in crime prevention. The grant helps the department pay overtime salary to deputies to have more deputies patrolling the county.

Lt. Joe Martinez, like other deputies with the sheriff’s department, puts in a full schedule until 5 p.m. and then continues his shift with the Border Star funding until 11 p.m.

On Wednesday, Martinez patrolled South Highway 281 through Premont and checked county roads along the way, calling in license plates of vehicles that looked suspicious and could be carrying undocumented immigrants or contraband.

As an experienced law enforcer, Martinez watches out for vehicles that appear to be weighted down and carrying more than out of the ordinary occupants.

“It’s sad to see the desperation of these people wanting to come across that they are willing to risk their own lives,” Capt. Louie Valadez with the sheriff’s department said.

Deputies have seen illegals hidden in tool boxes, under plywood in the back of a truck, in the dashboard and in just about any nook and cranny of a vehicle.

In the last three weeks of the Border Star interdiction, the deputies have seized 31 vehicles carrying undocumented immigrants. When the vehicle is stopped, many of the illegals flee into the brush.

Valadez said the vehicles they have stopped carry from 10 to 30 undocumented immigrants packed into the vehicles.

“It shows that there is a problem,” Valadez said. “It’s a big problem.”

Martinez said many of the “coyotes” who transport illegals into the United States are using strategic methods to distract deputies.

“They usually drive in two vehicles and the lead car starts to weave or even tries to block us from the other car carrying the aliens,” Martinez said. “This way the deputies will pull over the first car and the second car passes through.”

But Martinez and the deputies with the Border Star program can back each other up when two vehicles are involved.

While many of the stops do involve undocumented immigrants, the Border Star interdiction is also assisting in drug busts and other crimes.

The Border Star grant will continue to pay for overtime through August, at which time sheriff officials will renew the grant until the end of the year.