Pubdate: Mon, 11 Aug 2003
Source: Athens Review (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Athens Daily Review
Author: Art Lawler


The problem with having a criminal career in Texas is, it's getting to be too
much work, thanks in no small part to the Department of Public Safety.

Aside from the lack of workers compensation insurance and well-known job
hazards, the tax paid by criminals (and the rest of us) at the gas pump pays
the salaries of eight troopers in Henderson County alone, and that number is
about to rise to 10.

If that sounds like a lot, it's really not. It takes three shifts to cover
every 24 hours. But in that time, Sgt. Hank Sibley's crew manages to get a lot
done and you should be aware of it.

If you're a criminal in this county who likes to drink on the job, for instance
while doing business from your vehicle, you should be aware of the following:

=A5 The county's DPS arrested 263 motorists and charged them with driving while
intoxicated last year. And remember, this doesn't include similar arrests made
by city police departments in the county; and,

=A5 They arrested 363 criminals with charges ranging from possession of illegal
narcotics to aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

If, like many criminals, you're out on the highway with outstanding warrants
buried in the legal community's computers, you should know that DPS troopers
served 465 warrants in this county during their so-called spare time last year.

DPS arrests usually take place when motorists are pulled over to the side of a
highway for speeding, or having a tail light out, or some other minor offense.

Even if you're not an intentional criminal, you should know that the troopers
in this county issued 1,169 seatbelt tickets last year. But you don't have to
buckle up, if you've got enough money to give back to the county.

Corp. Bryan Barnhart and troopers, Marty Colvin, Brent Davis, James Martin,
Jason Rolison, Scott Smith, Chad Sparkman and newcomer Manuel Ponce are trained
to look for "anything suspicious."

Things like the smell of marijuana, for instance, could make a trooper lose
interest in the speeding ticket he's writing you.

But even if you're just a common or careless lawbreaker, you should be aware
that these people issued 6,901 citations in the year 2002 - just in Henderson

Their supporters will insist they are not trying to be difficult. After all,
they issued another 10,774 warning tickets, allowing you to skate on a lot of
violations that could have drained your pocket book.

But they are out there, and they will write, and if that's irritating to
criminals and other law violators on the highway, it's music to the ears of

"I've got one of the best crews out there," he said. "They're easy to
supervise, and I'll tell you, they are not afraid of work. They're highly
motivated, hard working troopers.

"I am proud to be their supervisor, and I mean that."

They're not just writing tickets all the time, either. They'll also work the
accidents you have on Henderson County roads. Last year, you had 598 of them.

That's an average of about 74 per trooper, but when you consider they assist
each other in most of those wrecks, you get some idea of how busy they stay.

If you're thinking of moving your criminal career to a less intrusive area in
the state, good luck. Texas law enforcement statistics for last year have just
been released, and here's what you're facing:

=A5 Highway drug seizures topped the $100 million mark in Texas for the third
straight year in 2002, intercepting illegal drugs valued at $123.8 million
while on normal patrol duty;

=A5 Heroin seizures of 86 pounds were a record for DPS troopers. When you
consider that 74 of those pounds came after one criminal had gone to the
trouble and expense of hiding heroin in four different tire rims during a
roadside bust south of San Antonio in Atascosa County, it's not hard to
understand the frustrations facing professional criminals in this state;

* - DPS troopers arrested 17,000 people for a variety of criminal violations,
ranging from homicide to auto theft;

* - The 1,780 drug arrests were the second highest in DPS history;

* - Cocaine seizures topped one ton (2,202 pounds) with an estimated street
value of $90.1 million;.

* - Troopers confiscated over 25 tons (50,908 pounds) of marijuana; and

* - 2001 ranked as the fourth best in DPS history.

All in all, the DPS is feeling pretty good about itself these days.

"Seizing drugs intended for someone's neighborhood is just one positive
by-product of our normal patrol activities," said DPS Director Col. Thomas A.
Davis Jr. "In addition to arresting drunk drivers and slowing down speeders,
our traffic patrols put drug smugglers, murderers and other criminals behind
bars - a big step forward in making Texas a safer place."

The good news, for non-criminals anyway, is that, according to Sibley, all of
the money the DPS collects in fines, stays right here in Henderson County.

All things considered, if you're in the criminal game, it might well be time to
consider a career change, or at least a transfer to another state.
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