Out on the water

Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick drives the newest  patrol boat. (Photo by Frank Cardenas)

Law enforcement in Kleberg County will now be able to monitor the waterways in the county closer than ever before thanks to the most recent purchase of a patrol boat for the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office.

Earlier this year at the January 27 Kleberg Count Commissioners Meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously for the KCSO to purchase the boat to be used on Kleberg County waters, including Baffin Bay in Riviera.

The boat originally cost about $60,000, but with modifications including a new radio system, lights, a radar system, its own on-board WiFi network and other specifications to aid in search and rescue, the total cost neared $80,000.

Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick said the purchase of the boat was not purchased with taxpayer money, but with money from the Operation Stonegarden Grant Program, which the KCSO received in 2018.

The OPSG Program supports enhanced cooperation and coordination among Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Border Patrol (USBP), and local, tribal, territorial, state, and Federal law enforcement agencies, according to the CBP website.

The OPSG Program funds investments in joint efforts to secure the United States borders along routes of ingress from international borders to include travel corridors in states bordering Mexico and Canada, as well as states and territories with international water borders.

Kirkpatrick said the boat itself was purchased with the OPSG grant.

“The remainder of that was paid for through forfeiture funds,” Kirkpatrick said. “So if you're looking at it from a taxpayer standpoint, it didn't cost the taxpayers any tax money locally. So we're very, very fortunate for that.”

The reason for the purchase of the boat, Kirkpatrick said, is because of the amount of water that resides within the count limits, thus creating a need for added patrol for a variety of different reasons.

“Kleberg County is comprised of 209 square miles of water, which is actually about 19 percent of Kleberg County,” he said. “There are cabins out here; people like to come and fish on the weekends and we've actually had more calls (in the bay) since the coronavirus pandemic has occurred. We've had several calls out there for service pertaining to gun violence, alcohol related issues, burglaries, thefts you name it. So, there's a multitude of things that occur out here that go way beyond drug smuggling and that sort of thing we contend with anyway.”

As for regular usage of the boat, Kirkpatrick said he has about five reserve officers who are certified to do “marine enforcement functions,” who will be out on the water periodically to be on patrol.

“The grant pays for them to go an work,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s not necessarily on call, or as needed, it’s just whenever they want to go (on the water) they can. They have the latitude to come out here whenever they deem necessary.”

Kirkpatrick said these officers will also help to assist other law enforcement personnel who will be patrolling the water.

“We just want to augment the ongoing operations that we have out here pertaining to border patrol and some of other personnel that are out here such as game wardens and that sort of thing, because they can only do so much. One of the reasons it is so necessary for us to be able to have this type of asset is to be able to help them. They can’t be everywhere, and neither can we, but we help each other and that’s when things become successful.”

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