This Saturday, April 29th, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCSO) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public an opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.
The drug take back program runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the EPCSO’s Patrol Stations (see below)
Last April, Americans turned in 447 tons (over 893,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at nearly 5,400 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Beating its previous high of 390 tons in the spring of 2014 by 57 tons, or more than 114,000 pounds. The top five states with the largest collections, in order, were Texas (almost 40 tons); California (32 tons); Wisconsin (31 tons); Illinois (24 tons); and Massachusetts (24 tons)
This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.
“These results show that more Americans than ever are taking the important step of cleaning out their medicine cabinets and making homes safe from potential prescription drug abuse or theft,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. “Unwanted, expired or unused prescription medications are often an unintended catalyst for addiction. Take-Back events like these raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and offer the public a safe and anonymous way to help prevent substance abuse.”
Bring your pills for disposal to one of the following Patrol Stations:
Montana Patrol Station – 12501 Montana
Clint Patrol Station – 190 San Elizario
Vinton Station – 435 E. Vinton, Suite D
(The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches.) The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will have three detention officers who specialize in special response tactics travel to Curitiba, Brazil to host a Special Response Team school.
Sheriff’s Office detention officers and officers from the Pima, Maricopa Arizona Department of Corrections will provide instruction to correctional staff from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile inside the state and federal prisons in Curitiba, Brazil. The school will also provide Sheriff’s Office officers with additional training and techniques for implementation in future courses.
The training will consist of One Man Cell Extractions, Two-Man Tactics extractions, Riot/Civil Disturbance, and Hostage and Rescue in a Correctional Setting.
This Special Response School is a continuing relationship between the Sheriff’s Office, and the correctional staff in Brazil as well as other law enforcement agencies who take part in these instruction courses.
In previous years, the Sheriff’s Office has hosted two yearly Special Response Schools in El Paso, with attendance from law enforcement staff from Arizona, Florida, and Brazil. In the past, the Brazilian correctional staff has used the Special Response training in Riot/Civil Disturbance in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sheriff Richard D. Wiles, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and lead instructor Officer Luis Trevino continue to develop the program for special response tactics in a correctional setting. The Sheriff’s Office is quickly becoming a household name for special response tactic training, so much so that the law enforcement agencies who part-take in the training require their staff to successfully complete the course to further their job performance.
Sheriff’s Office Detention Officers Trevino, Leos, and Corporal Moreno will be traveling to Curitiba, Brazil, for the training.
It has been said, by many an activist and politician, that our jails and prisons are a revolving door. To an extent, it’s a true statement.
I have known people who have been released from jail, or La Tuna, only to find their way back into the system in short order. Boredom, and punishment do take their toll on an individual who finds themselves incarcerated.
Corrections.com explains, “Inactivity and boredom take a toll… Responsible conduct is not encouraged; we do not trust our prisoners to act responsibly. Their conduct in prison is judged by whether they have obeyed prison rules, not whether they are capable of navigating in the outside world.”
However there is a program in El Paso County that is working to give structure, training, rehabilitation, and a sense of accomplishment to local inmates. I became aware of the Pets Advancing Wellness and Success (PAWS) program being run by the El Paso County Detention Facility – Annex a few years ago, as I found myself detained there.
Unlike other jails, the deputies in El Paso, wear many hats. The PAWS program is just another aspect of their desire to help inmates grow; it’s also the only program like this to be found in any jail in the country.
In early 2014, Sheriff Richard Wiles, in collaboration with Animal Rescue, started a vocational program which helps dogs find their forever homes. However, the program, does more than help the dogs. It also helps the inmates involved in the program. PAWS, is one of those programs with lofty aims.
I met with Lt. Hebeker, of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and Loretta Hyde, of the Animal Rescue League of El Paso, and they took me through the aims, and goals of the program. Each of them seemed like proud parents, wanting to help the dogs and the inmates as well.
Each morning, Officers Ortega and Ogaz pick-up the inmates from the trusty POD – a specific area of the jail – and head off to the kennels. The dogs wait, tails wagging, yapping and barking.
Just like the trustees who work with them, the dogs are read to start their day.
Lt. Hebeker, and Loretta Hyde have both said that the dogs they train are throwaways. They are dogs that no one wants any longer.
People see these little puppies, and want to take them home. Then, they grow up.
“Lack of manners,” is one of the reasons they are abandoned. They dig, jump, chew. They act like playful dogs. Animals that received no structure when they were puppies.
Many of the inmates at the Annex have had similar lives. They grew up, without structure, or parental involvement in their lives. Almost regardless of their ages, they seem just like children in the bodies of grown men. The time I spent as an inmate in the Annex, that was all I could see.
Overgrown children searching for love, and acceptance. They begin to find that – and more – in the PAWS program.
Lt. Hebeker said there is one group of inmates that can benefit the most from working with the dogs in the PAWS program, that can reconnect with what it is like to have to care for another living being: men who do not pay their child support.
“Everybody changes, from the four-legged, to the two-legged,” says Loretta. “Everybody has a different perspective one what it is to be a dog owner, (the) responsibility, and the unconditional love the dogs give them.”
I asked both Lt. Hebeker, and Officer Oraz what they hoped to give to the inmates, what they hope they will learn.
“Having been in the Marine Corp,” said Officer Oraz. “I try to give them structure, responsibility, and a sense of purpose.” Those three principals are lacking in the lives of most inmates. For someone to want to help another embrace these principles, especially within a correctional setting, is almost unheard of.
These officers genuinely care about the inmates in their custody, and it shows.
Lt. Hebeker said they work to demonstrate how commitment and motivation can bring positive results such as graduating from their program, as well as the other unexpected rewards such as gaining the affection and love from the canine cadets, and a sense of accomplishment when the dogs they trained graduate from the program.
So what exactly are the dogs, and the trustees in this program learning? It is, from the inmate point of view, simply a way to get out of the pod? Or is there more. After talking with one of individuals who went through the program, I can tell you, there is a lot more to it than just a way for the inmates to pass the time.
The individuals – called trustees – who are in the program learn a variety of skills that they can take with them when they are released. They are learning how to train the dogs who come into the PAWS program, clean and sanitize they kennels, care for the sick, treat minor injuries, and bring dogs back to full health.
The program’s duration is 250 hours. There are also a battery of tests, five written and one visual, the inmates must take and pass before they can graduate.
Beyond the PAWS program, the same inmates must also attend other programs as well. If they are without a high school diploma, they will be required to attend GED classes twice a week. If they are not proficient in English, then it is ESL. There are also job readiness classes they must attend to remain part of the program.
The dogs themselves gain much from the PAWS training program. They learn basic commands, become leash trained, and bad habits are removed. They become the perfect dog for anyone looking for a companion. So much so that the group, American Service Dogs, evaluates them after the program. Many of them have, in fact, become service dogs.
In talking with David Chura about the PAWS program he says programs like PAWS are invaluable.
“Although there are some programs that teach inmates work skills and how to be responsible – such as building maintenance or food service training – the value of such programs as PAWS is that they reconnect individuals with their basic sense of being human, of being a caring person. These programs help unearth and develop feelings and skills that in many cases are almost atrophied in individuals who have been involved in crime and who are used to life on the streets.”
I met with Raul (name has been changed). He went through the program back in 2015. His story, like many of those I heard in the jail, are similar. He grew-up in a single parent home. Didn’t have any real role models other than those he found in music, and gangster movies.
“Never had that real love,” he said. “How could anything love me.” Then, he signed-up for the PAWS program.
At first, he was looking for a way to receive a reduced sentence, thinking that participating in the PAWS program would look good for the Judge. Yet, there were changes to his way of thinking. Changes he readily admits.
“These dogs is like children. They need us for all of it. The just gave us love.”
That was the first time, Raul says, that he ever knew unconditional love. “I liked going to the dogs. They were happy to see us. I liked it.”
Like others who have participated in the program, Raul adopted the one of the dogs.
“They do care, not just only the dogs, the police as well.” Raul is right. The officers of the El Paso County Detention Facility do care. I had asked Lt. Hebeker if there was anything she wanted to say, to share with me. What she shared was not so much about the program, as it was about the dog and inmates in the PAWS program.
“I would like to see people hire our graduates. They could work for a vet’s office. They know what to do, and how to do it. They are qualified, trained, and motivated.”
She’s right. These men are motivated to better their lives, and the lives of their families. Just like the dogs are ready to become part of your family.
So, if you are looking for a dog to adopt, contact Loretta at the Animal Rescue League of El Paso. If you are looking for a motivated employee for your office- be it to work with four legged friends, or the two legged kind- maybe you can give Lt. Hebeker a call, and she may be able to point you in the right direction.
Photos Courtesy PAWS ‘n Detention Facebook Page & Author
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Pets Advancing Wellness and Success (PAWS) in Detention section will be celebrating its 5 year anniversary at the My Furry Valentine Adopt-A-Thon on Sunday, February 12th, 2017.
The PAWS in Detention Section will celebrate its anniversary from 12:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the My Furry Valentine Adopt-A-Thon hosted by the Animal Rescue League of El Paso at the Fountains at Farah located at 8889 Gateway West Blvd.
Sheriff’s Office detention officers and canine cadets will showcase the function and purpose of the PAWS vocational program to the public.
Sheriff Richard Wiles and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Animal Rescue League of El Paso created the PAWS (Pets Advancing Wellness and Success) vocational program to assist inmates in attaining vocational training and to provide homeless pets an opportunity to be adopted.
The canine cadets that are part of the PAWS vocational program can be adopted through the Animal Rescue League of El Paso.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens of El Paso County of a telephone scam that has claimed several victims.
According to law enforcement officials, several El Paso County residents have received phone calls from a person claiming to be Dep. Paul Cross of the “Sheriff’s Department”. The scammer claims that a jury summons was ignored and that there is a warrant for arrest for Jury duty Non-Attendance.
The victim is then told to buy MoneyTrax cards for varied amounts totaling $987.00. The scammer often asks the victim to purchase two or more cards as it the “only way to have the warrant recalled and a way to pay for the warrants.” The scammer also asks the person to meet him at 3850 Justice Rd. or 500 E. San Antonio in order to give him the money card.
According to victims of the scam, after they purchase the money cards, the scammer claims that he/she cannot meet and requests the serial numbers displayed on the money cards so that the warrant can be taken care of.
Those numbers are then turned into cash by the scammer depriving the victim of the money.
Victor Ramirez, Supervisor of Jury Selection at the El Paso County Courthouse, says their investigators that they will never call anyone to advise them that they missed Jury Duty. Officials with the Sheriff’s office added that they will never be contacted by phone requesting payment for outstanding criminal warrants.
Anyone who has been a victim of these scams is asked to contact the proper authorities; either the El Paso Police Department non-emergency number at 915-832-4400 or the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number is 915-832-4408.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, with funding provided by the Texas Department of Transportation under the 2017 STEP Comprehensive Grant, will be putting out additional deputies as part of enhanced Driving While Intoxicated patrols during the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Sheriff’s deputies will also be taking proactive measures with a zero tolerance for drivers operating motor vehicles in a hazardous or unsafe manner.
“Use designated drivers…our Deputies will be out in full force keeping El Paso roadways safe,” says Sheriff Richard Wiles. “One drink is too many when getting behind the wheel, and we will be out looking for DWIs.”
The Sheriff’s Office also reminds residents that El Paso County is a “no refusal” county. If a driver is arrested for Driving While intoxicated and he/she refuses to submit a sample of their breath for analysis, a search warrant will be obtained and a sample of their blood will be taken.
That sample will then be submitted for analysis to determine blood alcohol concentration. Either way, the driver will be booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office encourages the public to seek alternate means of transportation if they plan on consuming alcoholic beverages.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the E-Bond Committee will launch the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office E-Bond System on November 1st, 2016.
The E-Bonding Committee is made up of the Sheriff’s Office, Bail Bond Board, County Attorney, and the Information Technology Department.
“The introduction of new technologies like the E-Bonding system continue to move the Sheriff’s Office forward, in a continued effort to provide the best service possible to the citizens of the El Paso County,” Sheriff Richard D. Wiles.
On August 8th, 2016, the El Paso County Commissioner’s Court approved an agreement with AIA Holdings, Inc. to partner with the E-Bond Committee with the purpose of creating a computer system that will allow local bond agents to electronically transmit bail bond documents to the Detention Facilities and Satellite Booking in the County Court House.
The goal is to modernize the way bonds are accepted and achieve efficiencies for all parties involved. The new processes will allow for jail personnel to retrieve the bonds and process them electronically. The E-Bonding System will eliminate flaws like lost or misplaced bonds, which in turn interferes with court settings and the prosecution of bond forfeitures. Subsequently, minimizing the liability to the Sheriff and El Paso County.
For bond agents, the system will grant them access to their power of attorney inventory and also interface with the County’s credit card vendor. Bail agents will also be able to pay posting fees and gradually eliminate the procedure of bail agents hand delivering bail bonds to the jail.
In addition, Electronic filing and storage of bail bonds will eliminate up to 40,000 pieces of paper annually.
This new system will be accessible November 1st, 2016, to licensed bondsmen through the E-Bond Portal at the El Paso County Bail Bond Board Website
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Community Service Section and East Montana Patrol Station are launching “Operation Burn Trash Lose Cash,” beginning May 2nd through 22nd in east El Paso County.
The El Paso County is continuously under a burn ban issued by the El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and the Court of Commissioners. Often considered a drought-stricken area the El Paso County is constantly under threat of damage, injury, and loss of life and property resulting from the threat of wildfires.
Under the County Burn Ban, only “authorized” outdoor burning activities include firefighter training, public utility or planting or harvesting of agricultural crops.
The Sheriff’s Office Community Service Section will enhance their crime prevention efforts and will focus on educating the public on the County Burn Ban using local media outlets and by distributing flyers and information relating to the County Burn Ban and ordinance to the residents of the East Montana area.
The Sheriff’s Office East Montana Patrol Station will proactively locate and identify illegal burning violations, as well as respond to all violations reported by citizens. A zero tolerance enforcement of the burn ban will be in effect and those in violation of the order will be issued a citation. Violating the County Burn Ban is a Class C misdemeanor and can result in a citation and fine up to $500, in addition to any court costs.
The mission of this operation is to deter the public from outdoor burning in the unincorporated areas of El Paso County and keep our neighborhoods free from any harmful pollution and especially free of accidental fires.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office asks for the community to report any illegal burning to 915-546-2280.