Task force takes on violent crime, arrests 21 fugitives

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

July 27, 2013 at 2:27 a.m.

A five-day operation led by the U.S. Marshals Service apprehended 21 fugitives wanted in connection with various violent crimes.

Operation "Sight Cast," a special operation worked in cooperation with the Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force, was brought together to seek and arrest violent criminals, gang members and sex offenders.

The Texas Department of Public Safety announced in June that the overall major crime rate has dropped in Texas, but the actual number of violent crimes committed in the state have increased.

"Violent crime is on the rise," said deputy Max Hernandez with the U.S. Marshals Service. "We wanted to send a message that it's not tolerated here."

In 2012, the violent crime offense of murder in Victoria increased 150 percent, and aggravated assault increased 17.1 percent, according to the Victoria Police Department annual crime log.

In the past seven years, 24 murders have been reported on the annual crime log. Five of them were in 2012.

Preliminary numbers for 2013 show a rise in both robbery and rape in Victoria, although neither is significantly higher than previous years.

The operation task force was initiated by the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, which used the Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force because of their working relationship with each other, Hernandez said.

"I'm quiet pleased with the results because some of these components have been outstanding warrants on some of these individuals," said Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor. "This is another example of taking care of business."

O'Connor said he reached out to the other agencies because of the limited resources the sheriff's office has in dealing with the various criminals.

"Over the years, we have developed multiagency resources," O'Connor said. "With this task force, we have reaped great benefits as far as crime fighting," O'Connor said.

During the five-day operation, 21 fugitives were arrested, and 28 felony warrants were executed.

Additional charges were filed on multiple defendants as a result of evidence gathered during the arrests.

Four of those arrested were known gang members associated with the HPL, Crip, Latin King and CC Tango gangs.

One suspect, Jessie Bernal, fled the Victoria area but was located and arrested by authorities in San Antonio.

The Gulf Coast Violent Offender Fugitive Task Force is comprised of law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals, Victoria and Nueces county sheriff's departments, Corpus Christi Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"This is just not an isolated situation," O'Connor said. "There's more to come. If we want to continue to serve and protect our communities, this is a necessary outlet."



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