Southern New Mexico counties have a problem. Although crime at the border is handled by the U.S. Border Patrol, when someone crosses the border and then commits a crime, it is up to the individual counties to deal with it. Easier said than done, they say, and the federal government agrees.
The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that, through Operation Stonegarden, five counties along the New Mexico-Mexico border will receive more than $3 million to help address the problems of border-related crime.
Operation Stonegarden, which consists of two-year grants for the five NM counties, are designed to help address crimes, such as human trafficking, drug-related offences, and robberies, all of which occur at higher rates in border counties.
The funds of Operation Stonegarden are distributed as follows:
- Luna County: $950,349
- Grant County: $245,638
- Dona Ana County: $936,747
- Otero County: $200,000
- Hidalgo County: $813,767
Operation Stonegarden is not a new concept, however, as it was initially introduced in the mid-2000s after border counties revealed financial distress over handling border patrol-related crime. County sheriffs must handle everything from immigrants dying in the desert to the surge of drugs coming into their counties, and funding to deal with these issues has long been an issue.
A coalition of border county sheriffs headed to the nation’s capital in 2006 to request federal aid, and the result of their request was Operation Stonegarden.
Many of the county sheriffs use the funds they receive from Operation Stonegarden to pay officers working outside of their normal hours and duties. It also helps pay for such tools as ATVs and night vision goggles.
After a number of matters in recent years regarding racial profiling and immigration issues, the Department of Homeland Security now makes a point of carefully explaining where and how funds are to be used and what crimes are to be addressed. Specifically, the funds are to be used to address criminal activity, not illegal immigrants, which is still under the authority of the U.S. Border Patrol.