A string of drug-related deaths along the line between Bastrop and Travis County have law enforcement officials on high alert.
On Thursday, Travis County investigators identified skeletal remains found Sunday in the southeast part of the county. The remains, which were reported missing in July, have been identified as 33-year-old Paul Longoria.
This case is one of 10 deaths along the county line in just the past few months. Last week, a woman was found shot dead near the area at the intersection of FM 535 and Wolf Lane in Bastrop County.
KVUE News exclusively talked to an undercover detective, who wanted to remain anonymous. He said these gang-related activities are not only leading to multiple deaths, but higher crime in the county overall, such as more burglaries, robberies, and assaults and aggravated assaults.
In fact, officials on both sides said at the heart of it all is drugs.
“We aren't seeing any relation right now that they're tied into each other, but it is drug-related. We think each one of them was drug-related and as far as the drug cartel, the cartel is here in Austin, alive and well,” said Greg Hamilton, Travis County Sheriff.
In response to the increased violence, the Bastrop County Sheriff's office has re-formed its narcotics team and is adding two drug K-9's.
"We've proceeded to make a four-person unit, it's going to be both intelligence gathering, interdiction work, along with active cases, so we'll be trying to hit narcotics investigations from all angles, and we hope to have both dogs within the next month,” said Rosanna Abreo, Bastrop County Interim Sheriff.
The undercover detective, who works for the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, said the amount of gang activity in the county spiked since February of last year, resulting in multiple arrests and hundreds of pounds of drugs being confiscated.
"We ended up with a major supplier in the city of Bastrop, who was supplying a lot of users in Bastrop and the surrounding area,” he said.
According to the detective, the number of total crimes in Bastrop County has doubled in the past few years.
"There's a few of us on the team. All of us work simultaneously, either in-uniform or out-of-uniform, where we can do surveillance, or we do other undercover work to curb this. It's difficult,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Travis County Sheriff said he plans to shift some of his resources into that area around the county line and will continue to make a plea to the county commissioners for more staff.
“If we don’t get a handle on what’s going on, it’s going to blow up,” said Sheriff Hamilton.
The Bastrop County Sheriff said the department is investigating at least six different gangs within the county. Over the past year, detectives have reportedly seized about 370 pounds of marijuana, four pounds of meth and with smaller amounts of other drugs.
If you see or hear any suspicious activity or behavior in your neighborhood, you are urged to contact your local law enforcement agency.
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