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Three years into Operation Lone Star, Texas sheriff highlights successes

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Three years into Texas’ border security mission, Operation Lone Star, a Texas sheriff is highlighting the successful efforts of his deputies, who have been involved in a multi-county operation committed to combating cartel-related crime.

Retiring Jackson County Sheriff Kelly Janica was a founding member of an Operation Lone Star Task Force headed up by Goliad Sheriff Roy Boyd. Janica, who came out of semi-retirement to fill an open sheriff’s seat in December 2021, soon joined Boyd’s OLS task force. The group includes law enforcement officers from roughly 30 agencies in nearly 20 counties dedicated to stopping cartel-related trafficking and smuggling operations.

“We send these men and women into harm’s way every day,” Janica said in a video his office put together to educate county residents, and Texans, about the successes and dangerous work of the task force. The video depicts deputies involved in thwarting cartel-related criminal activity, and engaged in high-speed car chases and bailouts. Accompanying it is audio from part of a 2017 Liberty University commencement speech given by former President Donald Trump. In it, he encourages graduates, and Americans, to “never, ever give up.”

“Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar and I are the last two links in the enforcement chain on US 59,” Janica said. “We’re committed to criminal law enforcement in our counties. We will not give the cartels a foothold. We will not allow them to use our county for stash houses and staging areas. We will not allow them free passage through our counties so they can prey upon other Texans.”

Jackson County, Texas, Sheriff Kelly Janica, who was among the first to join an Operation Lone Star Task Force created by Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd, and who is retiring this year, has been steadfast in his commitment to protecting county residents, Texans and Americans from… pic.twitter.com/aqj6gFWDOs— Bethany Blankley (@BethanyBlankley) May 15, 2024

OLS task force members in Jackson and Wharton counties have been described as the “linebackers” and last line of defense to stop cartel-linked smugglers before they reach Fort Bend and Harris counties to their north. Those counties are considered the “end zone” because law enforcement agencies there aren’t participating with the OLS task force.

OLS task force members have focused on combating traffickers of people, weapons, drugs and money using stolen vehicles along highways 281, 77 and 59 going to and from Houston. Along the way, Janica’s deputies have excelled at recovering stolen vehicles. In the first year, they apprehended over 100, which for the small county was unprecedented.

“All of the stolen vehicles being used are coming out of Harris County,” Janica told The Center Square. “Cartels are paying fugitives to drive them to the border to pick up illegal aliens and bring them back north to Houston.”

It’s not just stolen cars they’re catching, they’re also stopping attempted smuggling events.

One of Janica’s first calls as sheriff was finding a truck off Highway 59 that had roughly 70 to 80 people inside. “When we opened the back door, people fell out on the ground,” he said. “They were so dehydrated and couldn’t even run away. If we hadn’t opened the door, there would have been casualties.”

His deputies also stopped Hondurans who they believed had illegally entered the country and were being smuggled to North Carolina. The Hondurans “said they were all family members,” Janica said, but “we don’t believe that for one minute.”

Under normal circumstances, if federal law were being enforced, Janica said his deputy would have arrested the driver and front passenger and they would’ve been charged with human smuggling. The reason they couldn’t arrest them is because Border Patrol said they wouldn’t come and get them and they had been given papers with court dates in 2026, he said.

The Biden administration was “finding a way to get people into country under the auspices of a court proceeding in three years, moving people across the country to North Carolina,” Janica told The Center Square. Not only had Biden administration policies created “an unmitigated disaster,” he said, but the “federal government is involved in legalized smuggling.”

In addition to these types of stops, his deputies have been involved in dangerous, high-speed car chases and bailouts in Jackson and other counties participating in OLS. “This activity has become the norm all over south Texas,” Janica said, with crime skyrocketing in 2021 and 2022.

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas legislature responded by surging resources and allocating funds, which helped them be as effective as they have been, Janica said. With the commitment of “like-minded motivated sheriffs,” their efforts have “paid off.” They are still actively patrolling but there are fewer apprehensions.

“Now that the governor has stopped the invasion in Eagle Pass, we stand ready to continue the fight for Texas,” he said, referring to Texas’ efforts that have pushed illegal activity west to states without similar operatons, The Center Square first reported.

Janica previously served as Jackson County’s sheriff from 1988 to 2005 and as the county’s emergency management coordinator. County commissioners appointed him as sheriff to fill the remainder of a term vacated by the previous sheriff.

Edna Police Chief Rick Boone, who previously served on the Edna City Council and as chief deputy at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, ran to replace Janica. He won his unopposed primary election and is expected to be elected in November. Boone plans to continue the county’s involvement in the OLS task force, he told The Center Square at a recent OLS task force meeting in Goliad.

Boyd, Janica and Srubar are among more than 100 Texas sheriffs who support OLS, arguing federal policies have created an “unsecure border” and “deliberate, destructive, and inhumane violation of Texas and federal law.”

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