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“We just want to be part of the team…”
When the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office begins tackling cases involving serious crimes, it may now call upon a federal agency for additional law enforcement resources.
In a unanimous move at their recent November meeting, county commissioners approved an agreement between La Salle and the US Department of Homeland Security for investigators who will assist local officers with cases ranging for drug trafficking, firearms crimes, smuggling, and sexual assault, among others.
“They want to work with us,” Sheriff Anthony Zertuche told commissioners on Monday, Nov. 15, of the federal agency’s overtures to La Salle. “They cover an area all the way to the International Bridge, along the border region… Plus, they cover overtime costs.”
The federal assistance is separate from funds recently guaranteed to La Salle County by Operation Stonegarden, which supports overtime pay for local officers working in border-region patrols.
Sheriff Zertuche said a Homeland Security agent will be dispatched to La Salle County in the event of a criminal investigation that requires additional manpower or resources, and any overtime worked by local officers may also be covered.
“We expect to work hand in hand with HSI,” the sheriff told commissioners. “Selected officers from our department will work with the HSI investigators.”
The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office presently has two officers working in criminal investigations, Esmeralda Gonzalez and Homar Olivarez.
Sheriff Zertuche said County Attorney Elizabeth Martinez has reviewed the agreement between La Salle County and Homeland Security for law enforcement services and has cleared it for a vote by the commissioners’ court.
Undersheriff Rene Sobrevilla, who has also worked in criminal investigations for La Salle County, said he expects the federal agency to make a number of additional resources available to the sheriff’s office, including vehicles and trained canine units.
“We just want to be part of the team,” Sheriff Zertuche said. “We don’t want to be left behind.”