‘Cartels are alive and well in Austin,’ sheriff warns

Travis Co. Sheriff Greg Hamilton says a recent spate of murders is linked to cartel crime. (KXAN Photo)
Travis Co. Sheriff Greg Hamilton says a recent spate of murders is linked to cartel crime. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton says a string of recent murders are all directly related to drug violence. He says the past few years, a lack of resources along the county line have allowed groups like cartels to come in and settle here.

“We’re not saying that they’re not tied into each other, but I can tell you that it is drug-related, we think each one of them are drug related,” Hamilton said about recent murders in the Del Valle area.

The sheriff is calling on Travis County commissioners to give the department more funding. “We’re still treating this city and county like it’s a small town, it’s not anymore and we need to have the law enforcement staffing out here, not only in the field, but as far as administrative to do the paperwork,” Hamilton says. “This right here, if we don’t get a handle on what’s going on, it’s going to blow up.”

Hamilton says Bastrop County’s lack of a narcotics unit is partially to blame. “I believe what’s important is that we have recognized that there is a problem, we have pulled together our resources and we have created a team to address the problem moving forward. We will always take responsibility for our county and work diligently on all crimes to the fullest extent of our resources,” Bastrop County Interim Sheriff Rosanna Abreo says.

She admits the issue stems from the previous administration. Abreo says in the beginning of 2015, BCSO experience a “great deal of turn over.” As property and person crimes increased, the previous adminstration moved sources to work those cases and left “one investigator assigned to the DEA Task Force working narcotic cases in Bastrop,” explains Abreo.

It’s a problem Hamilton says they could face too, if they dedicate resources specifically to the Del Valle area without an increase in funding.

“Our officers, we’re going to pick up the pace and probably shift some of our resources over in that area and toward this particular investigation, but it’s going to take it from somewhere else,” Hamilton said. “The county commissioners need to step up to the plate and address the concerns that we have.”

County Commissioner Margaret Gómez says she understands the concerns and wants to keep people in the county, especially her district, safe too. “They’re unusual, I mean burned bodies? That’s incredible and I’m really concerned that we be able to have a request, formal request from our sheriff and a formal request from our constituents so we can take appropriate action,” Gómez said. “We of course, are very much concerned about the safety of folks throughout the county, and so I’m really hoping we would respond quickly.”

Hamilton says they’ve already put in requests. He says it’s something they’ve been been requesting for years, not specifically for cartels, but for the whole department in general.

“I think that Commissioner’s Court need to get from behind that desk and come out here and see some of the things that the deputies are out here doing and then maybe, just maybe, they’ll understand what me as a sheriff is asking our deputies to do,” Hamilton said.

They’re all issues the incoming Travis County sheriff will have to take up after the upcoming election.

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