The Border Conspiracy, Part Two: Video Confessions of a Hidalgo County Sheriff's Deputy

HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS -- In Part One of our exclusive Border Conspiracy series, we went inside the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. We watched as a crime analyst admitted on hidden camera to changing the crime codes in the Uniform Crime Reporting system. Downgrading the nature of the crimes that the sheriff’s office reports to the federal government makes the Texas county appear safer than it really is. The statistics also help the Obama administration argue that the border is now safer than it was just a few years ago, despite the drug war raging across the Rio Grande in Mexico. What we have learned so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a current Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy, downgrading the county’s crime stats is part of a systematic effort to create a false impression that the community is safe. In this exclusive video, we have protected the identity of this brave whistle-blowing deputy by blurring the image and distorting voices. The deputy says the effort to manipulate the county's crime statistics starts at the top, with Sheriff Lupe Treviño.

Deputy: They cook the stats, from minor crimes, to big crimes.

Interviewer: What do you mean, cook stats? They change the description of crime?

Deputy: They find a way to justify it, to downgrade it.

Interviewer: So in your experience, the sheriff’s office looks for ways to downgrade the crimes, to change the statistics so that there’s credibility, supposed credibility, in proclaiming that particular crimes are down. Kidnappings, car thefts…

Deputy: Yes.

Interviewer:…aggravated assault, aggravated robberies, serious crimes.

Deputy: Yes.

Interviewer: They’re downgraded to less serious crimes so that, our borders look safer?

Deputy: Yes.

Sheriff Treviño gets political mileage out of claiming that he brings federal grant money to the county and that the federal grants plus his own efforts have made Hidalgo County safe despite the violence raging just across the border in Mexico. But according to this deputy, Sheriff Treviño himself behaves as if Hidalgo County is not the safe community that he claims it is.

Deputy: He doesn’t go around by himself. He has bodyguards. He’s had bodyguards guarding his house while he sleeps at night. That…that’s a fact. When he goes, when he travels somewhere out to places, he has bodyguards with him. Why he has bodyguards, if you’re saying this is the safest county?

Treviño might say that he needs such protection because he has been so effective at fighting crime that he has become a target. He could even point to the almost-routine assassination of police and government officials south of the border. But the deputy says it’s because on Sheriff Treviño’s watch, Mexico's drug cartels have moved in and now have real power in Hidalgo County.