(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the Texas Department of Public Safety is increasing the cash reward it’s offering for information leading to the identification of stash houses used in transnational criminal activity to up to $5,000.
The announcement comes as federal agents continue to uncover stash houses of people who’ve been smuggled across the border into El Paso, Texas, a major human trafficking and smuggling destination. Local law enforcement officers and sheriffs are also uncovering cartel-operated or linked stash houses throughout Texas, especially in rural areas and along the Texas-Mexico border.
“As President Biden’s dangerous open border policies continue to allow cartels and other criminal organizations to operate freely in our communities, it is more important than ever that Texans step up and report suspicious activity,” Abbott said.
“DPS and local law enforcement partners are working around the clock to prevent transnational crimes from being committed in communities around the state,” he added. “These stash houses contain people or drugs that may have otherwise made their way across Texas and the nation because of the dangerous gaps left by the Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border. With the help of Texans across the state, we can bring criminals to justice, destroy their illegal enterprises, and keep our communities safe.”
The reward money is made possible through DPS’ Texas Stash House Program. Texans are encouraged to “help combat transnational crime by anonymously reporting information on stash houses used to facilitate human trafficking, drug smuggling, and smuggling of people,” Abbott said
Stash houses can be homes, sheds or any structure used to hide illegal activity from law enforcement, the FBI explains, “to blend in, so they can be found even in the middle of a city or gated community.” They often create life-threatening conditions because they aren’t adequately ventilated, cooled or heated.
Texans can identify a stash house by a lot of trash placed outside, or multiple water jugs or disposable plates lying on the ground. Different types of vehicles, especially vans and pickup trucks, often are seen entering and exiting the property at all hours of the day or night, and the vehicles have different license plates, including paper “buyer” or “dealer” tags.
Those operating the stash houses are likely associated with dangerous criminal actors linked to Mexican cartels or gangs and should not be approached, those in law enforcement warn.
To be eligible to receive a cash reward through the program, those with information on stash houses must provide a tip in any of three ways. They can call Crime Stoppers’ hotline: 1-800-252-TIPS (8477), submit an online tip at https://www.p3tips.com/650, or submit a Facebook tip by clicking the “Submit a Tip” link under the “About” section.
All tips are anonymous regardless of how they are submitted.
Since Abbott launched the state’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, last March, DPS troopers have uncovered more than 170 stash houses, which have led to the discovery of over 1,900 people who’ve entered Texas and the U.S. illegally.
This week, DPS successfully conducted a stash house operation based on the first tip approved for the newly increased reward amount that led to the seizure of drugs, money and weapons. In one raid, they uncovered more than 19 kilograms of methamphetamine, 20 pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroine, LSD, and other illegal drugs, more than $6,000 in cash, as well as gold coins and bars, silver coins and bars, and four weapons.