(The Center Square) – A Texas Department of Public Safety officer who on Tuesday toured a community north of Houston that has been the subject of media scrutiny and some elected officials confirmed The Center Square’s previous reporting: a media narrative that residents of Colony Ridge are living in a “colonia,” an “illegal alien settlement” involved in cartel violence, is false.
“The media narrative that this area is an illegal alien colony and everyone is working with the cartels is totally false,” DPS Lt. Craig Cummings told The Center Square, which toured the area with Cummings. “There are wonderful people here and I encourage others to get to know them. We have been more than welcomed here. I’ve had some delicious food and met some exceptional people.”
Cummngs said an ongoing DPS operation in the area near the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County “is not about immigration, but about public safety.” Cartel members and criminal organizations are involved in “a lot of crime statewide,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott directed DPS to provide additional support to local law enforcement in the area after multiple news reports published unsubstantiated information about a local property developer. In his call for a third special legislative session, the Texas governor also instructed the legislature to address public safety issues, including the “security, environmental quality, and property ownership in areas like the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County, Texas.”
The current DPS focus in Liberty County is to identify people who already are wanted on outstanding warrants, assist local law enforcement partners, provide additional resources, conduct narcotics investigations, look for felons and violent offenders, and perform general traffic enforcement to identify criminal activity, Cummings explained.
“We do this in every county in Texas,” he added. “A higher law enforcement presence sends a message to criminals this is not a place to be.”
During part of an operation on Plum Grove Road, The Center Square observed a DPS officer regularly pull over drivers for common traffic violations including having no registration or license plates on their vehicles.
DPS often surges resources to counties to assist local law enforcement, Cummings noted. DPS officers are currently on rotation at the border and in Austin to assist the Austin Police Department after the city council there voted to defund it. The Center Square spoke to DPS officers working shifts in Liberty County who’ve done rotations in Austin and at the border who said they’re “pitching in” to assist wherever the need is.
“DPS has had an aggressive traffic enforcement and narcotics programs for decades to respond to criminal actors as they evolve,” Cummings, who’s been with DPS for 20 years, said. “Meth, cocaine, fentanyl and other dangerous drugs are coming up from border into communities in and around metropolitan areas throughout the country.”
DPS’ Criminal Investigation Division and Highway Patrol units are providing a “significant amount of resources to the area near Colony Ridge properties. They are not providing immigration enforcement,” he said. ICE agents have been in the area to follow up on felony warrants or other crimes, “not immigration enforcement.”
DPS is also intentional about “creating relationships with the community,” he added. “From what we have seen, they appreciate our presence up here by and large and are welcoming.”
When in town, Cummings frequents a local taco truck and says others should too because the food is “fresh and delicious.” The Center Square met the owners, whose truck has signs that display Christian messages in Spanish. One states, “Cristo te ama,” “Christ loves you.” Another states, “Jehová es mi pastor; nada me faltará. Salma 23:1,” from the first verse of Psalm 23 in the Bible, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Cummings also responded to a rumor that sources have asked The Center Square about: for example, that there “were 141 arrests made in Colony Ridge” last Saturday. DPS hasn’t yet released surge operation data, Cummings said. It still has to be reconciled to ensure there’s no duplication, and officers aren’t solely working in Colony Ridge developments, he said.
According to Liberty County Sheriff’s Office crime data, which is separate from DPS, nine people were arrested on Oct. 7, the Saturday in question. Arrests were made for the charges of possession of a controlled substance; possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon; unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon; possession of a controlled substance; injury to a child and hold for ICE; criminal mischief; credit card or debit card abuse and fraudulent use or possession of identifying information; unauthorized use of a vehicle; and assault/family violence.
The types of arrests aren’t out of the ordinary for the county, law enforcement officers explained to The Center Square. They also represent a fraction of the arrests made on a typical Saturday in larger counties.
“People should get to know their neighbors and talk to them. We have a whole lot more similarities than differences,” Cummings said.
A group of bipartisan state representatives came to a similar conclusion as Cummings after touring the area, saying there was “nothing alarming” about what they saw and that negative media reports didn’t give “the full picture.”