The U.S. Border Patrol has decided not to resume an anti-crime squad jointly with San Diego police, but the outfit could be revived in the future if attacks on migrants surge, a patrol official said Tuesday.
But Border Patrol authorities will assign a full-time liaison to maintain contact with the beefed-up police border unit that is expected to be deployed shortly, said Ted Swofford, a supervisory Border Patrol agent.
The Border Patrol decisions were made against a backdrop of what officials characterize as rising border violence--a problem attributed largely to thieves who prey on undocumented border-crossers. Robbers are suspected in the slayings of six unauthorized immigrants in the border strip thus far in 1990, contrasted with five such fatalities during all of 1989.
Swofford said Tuesday that Gustavo de la Vina, the new chief agent in San Diego, has decided not to send agents on joint patrols with San Diego police.
Instead, Swofford said, officials will continue an anti-crime strategy enunciated last week that involves the posting of powerful floodlights and the deployment of more agents in high-crime border zones.
“The steps that we’ve taken appear to be working, so we want to keep them working,” Swofford said.
The decision was reached after a meeting Tuesday between de la Vina and San Diego Police Chief Bob Burgreen.
Responding to the increased enforcement, Swofford said, many thieves appear to have returned to Tijuana and abandoned the immediate area of the international boundary. Reports of assaults have declined precipitously in the high-crime hillside zone where additional agents were posted and lights were installed last week, Swofford said. The area is about 2 miles west of the port of entry at San Ysidro.
City police officials have announced plans to double the strength of the six-officer police unit that now patrols the border strip. The additional city officers, who are expected to be deployed this week, are to be pulled from an elite unit that normally responds to high-risk situations.
In addition, Burgreen has publicly raised the possibility of renewing the now-defunct Border Crime Prevention Unit, a joint anti-crime squad composed of San Diego police and Border Patrol agents. The unique federal-city outfit, which patrolled the border area for five years, was disbanded in January, 1989, after several controversial shootings of suspects.
A revived version of the squad could be an option if crime returns to its former levels, said Swofford, the Border Patrol spokesman.
However, Swofford added that a full-time Border Patrol liaison will be assigned to maintain radio contact with the police unit in an effort to coordinate activities and share information. Officials of both agencies agree that cooperation is essential for safety and efficiency. Critics have charged that coordination between the two agencies has sometimes been less than smooth.
“We want to make sure there are no communication gaps,” Swofford said.