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Eight new positions have been created in recent weeks at the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office, with four in law enforcement patrol as the agency responds to increased demands for personnel in the border region.
La Salle County Sheriff Anthony Zertuche pinned badges on two new deputies this week, welcoming Edward Gonzalez and Jesse Gamino to the force. Gonzalez comes to La Salle County from serving in law enforcement in Cuero; Gamino is a recent graduate of the Southwest Texas Junior College Law Enforcement Academy at Uvalde.
“The county commissioners agreed that we needed additional manpower,” the sheriff said this week. “They approved the creation of four new deputy positions and four positions for correctional officers at the county jail.”
Zertuche said his agency has been under pressure this year to meet the demands for additional personnel at a time when human smuggling, drug traffic and other criminal activity are on the rise along the border and on IH-35.
“I showed the county commissioners our call volume, plus the number of bail-outs we have experienced by smugglers, and the statistics on smuggling in this area,” Zertuche said. “We have been quite overwhelmed.”
The sheriff said demands on his patrol officers have included dedicating hours of time in each shift to handle the number of incidents across the county involving smuggler pursuits and arrests. Those hours, he said, have taken officers away from their routine patrol duties and community policing.
“I explained to the court that our staff is spending countless hours dealing with stolen vehicles and smugglers, which have been tying up our resources,” Zertuche said. “We were falling behind in our responses to calls for service.”
Jail staff were also much in demand, Zertuche said, as processing arrestees and supervising the county lock-up on Main Street in Cotulla put additional demands on each shift.
Over a two-week period in mid June, officers working in La Salle County made at least 49 arrests, representing more than double the number of suspects routinely taken into custody at the county jail. Arrests were made by sheriff’s deputies, officers of the Encinal Police Department, county constables, and troopers of the Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol.
“With increased criminal activity related to the border, and with increased interception by law enforcement, you are going to have increased demands put on a county jail,” the sheriff said. “The county commissioners asked us how many officers and jail staff we thought we needed to handle these demands, and we agreed on the number of new positions.”
To date, three of the new jail staff positions have been filled. This week’s administration of oaths to the new deputies leaves two patrol officer positions yet to be filled.