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Law enforcement: Claims about cartel influence in Colony Ridge fall flat

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(The Center Square) – Texas law enforcement officials are refuting claims that a development located north of Houston built by Colony Ridge, LLC, is a Mexican cartel haven overrun by crime.

made by some in the media and by advocacy groups

An initial report published by the advocacy group The Center for Immigration Studies alleged that four major crimes occurred in, or were connected to, the development. These claims were disproven by local media reports, The Center Square reported. A media outlet repeated the claims, citing a CIS fellow who said, “The Mexican cartels are very active in that they run safe houses, they run drugs, they do marijuana grows, they commit crimes.” It also claimed “many fear [Colony Ridge] has become a strategic center for Mexican cartels to operate.” Another claimed that Colony Ridge was a “massive illegal immigrant settlement” the size of Miami controlled by cartels.

In response, several activist groups called on the governor and state legislature to investigate. A public safety issue of “security, environmental quality, and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, Texas” was included in the third special legislative session.

In October, at state Senate and House hearings, Republican and Democratic lawmakers repeatedly asked, “why are we here?” when they said it became apparent that media claims were “blown out” of proportion. Their conclusions were similar to that of other legislators who said there was “nothing alarming” about what they saw when they toured the development.

Claims about cartel crime and violence also fell flat, lawmakers and law enforcement said. The result at the end of the legislative session was the legislature approved allocating additional funding for Texas Department of Public Safety operations in the area.

At a House State Affairs Committee hearing held in October, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw refuted many cartel crime claims. He said, “There’s not a community in Texas that’s not impacted by the Mexican cartels and gangs.” He said what every law enforcement officer has told The Center Square: “where there’s cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl … all communities are impacted by” cartel and gang influence because they are facilitating drug trafficking.

In response to another CIS claim that the development is the “largest illegal immigrant no-go sanctuary city in America,” DPS investigated in January and found it to be untrue. “There’s no such thing in Texas as a no-go zone,” McCraw said. “We talked to the sheriff … and he assured us that was not the case. Certainly our sergeant didn’t think so, our troopers go anywhere, his deputies can go anywhere in that regard.”

“No-go zones are Muslim-dominated neighborhoods that are largely off limits to non-Muslims due to a variety of factors, including the lawlessness and insecurity that pervades a great number of these areas,” The Gatestone Institute says in a series of reports about crime in European countries. Residents in the Colony Ridge development are primarily Hispanic.

Responding to other claims about organized crime in the development, “more specifically cartels and gangs,” McCraw said that DPS sent “special agents to do investigations and specifically covert operations like we do in other areas to detect organized criminal activity.” What they found, was “pretty paltry. We didn’t detect much criminal enterprise activity.” He cited one robbery and one homicide and other crimes that occur “in any community throughout the state.”

In September, DPS deployed more troopers to the development to implement “proactive policing, high visibility patrols.” What they found, “when you compare it to our operations … in Austin in a similar area sized area, similar population, it’s night and day,” he said.

“We’re seeing a lot more drugs, stolen vehicles, felony arrests in the Austin area than we were in Liberty County when we sent similar type of surge operations,” he said. DPS troopers interdicted more criminal activity in one week in Austin than the entire time they were in Liberty County, he added. DPS operations have expanded in Austin due to the city cutting its police department.

When comparing the types of crimes committed in the two areas, overall crime is “substantially lower” in Colony Ridge than in an area of comparable size in Austin, he said. In Austin, there were 10 homicides to one in Colony Ridge; 178 robberies to two; 574 aggravated assaults to 35; 757 burglaries to 46.

“So clearly the average … is far lower in Colony Ridge,” he said.

McCraw also said, “you don’t see the same crimes like you do in south Texas,” where there are far more home invasions; “we don’t see that in Colony Ridge.” Nor do they see stash houses, bailouts, high speed pursuits, stolen vehicles “that we typically see” in border communities with high cartel and gang influence, he said.

Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Radar said the media reports were “blown out” and he was “quoted in things that I didn’t know I said.” Radar was justice of the peace for 14 years in the county before serving as sheriff for 11 years.

He said there were cartel operatives in the county but were “not giving us a problem though.” He also refuted the “no-go zone” claim. He said, “there’s not any no go zone anywhere in that place. You can drive anywhere day or night and we’re not in fear.” A deputy also lives in the Sante Fe subdivision.

He said there are cartel members “being monitored by the federal agencies” and in the county but according to his data, “there have been no cartel arrests for crimes in Liberty County in the last three years.”

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