Increase in pursuits could be blamed on increased patrols

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Jim Wells County Task Force was kept busy last week with a number of pursuits and bailouts of illegal immigrants, and officials believe that number will only increase in the next few months.

On just Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the task force was involved in seven separate pursuits, Lt. Joe Martinez, with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

The task force seized six vehicles as a result of the pursuits, Martinez said, and a seventh vehicle was seized by the Premont Police Department.

Two of those pursuits involved vehicles traveling southbound on Highway 281 with only the drivers in the vehicles. One of those drivers escaped in a bailout, while the other was captured.

In another instance, a northbound vehicle was stopped on Highway 281 just south of Highway 141, and the driver and four passengers, including a passenger in the trunk were arrested, Martinez said.

Immediately after a pursuit ended in an arrest inside the city limits of Premont Wednesday, another pursuit was initiated on Highway 281 just south of Highway 141.

"In that one, two vehicles boxed it in, and he went off the road," Martinez said. "About 12 bailed out, and we apprehended three."

In those seven pursuits, Martinez said officers apprehended over 20 illegal immigrants, and he estimated more than a dozen avoided capture. No injuries were reported in any of the pursuits.

Martinez said the increased number of pursuits was due in part to increased patrols, and also to the time of year.

"We're going into the peak season where illegal immigrant smuggling is at its highest," Martinez said. "For December and November, immigrants go back to Mexico for holiday the holidays and spend the money they make throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, smugglers start hauling them back."

Martinez said the task force will be carrying out operations with increased numbers of officers on the roads throughout the coming months.