BIG COUNTRY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – In this week’s episode of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz had a conversation with DPS Trooper Sergeant Marc Couch about illegal narcotics, securing the border, and planning ahead for the Labor Day holiday.

Couch confirmed that the war on drugs has reached the Big Country, as stated by Taylor County Sheriff Ricky Bishop in a recent press conference.

“The war on drugs is good. The cartels do have a reach into Texas, of course. Texas DPS and all law enforcement are doing our best to try to cut those ties. But you know, we still see methamphetamine still is a probable drug of choice for this area of Texas, and has been for many years, as well as marijuana. You start to see some effects of fentanyl all across the state because of what’s coming in there and the dangerous things that are occurring in that situation also in the state,” Couch shared. “But you know, we hope to try to beat back the influence of drugs on us in the Big Country area as much as we can and do our best as law enforcement to battle against that.”

Couch added that they have seen the use of drugs such as meth, cocaine, and marijuana in what he calls a ‘poly drug culture.’

“We’re seeing everything. So we’ll see methamphetamine, you’ll see cocaine, you’ll see, marijuana is always going to be in that mix most of the time, just because of the legalization and other states and just the wide usage of it. And the acceptable people are accepting the use of marijuana in so many ways that now it’s not, it’s not a single thing you see, like on a DWI traffic stop, you would get someone who was intoxicated on alcohol alone. But nowadays, it’s a poly-drug culture, and you’re gonna be dealing with not only alcohol, but there’ll be something else, whether it’s math, or it’s, or it’s cocaine or, or marijuana based on the stuff that you’re taking,” Couch explained. “So, the officer has to do a really good job on their field sobriety testing. And in a lot of cases, the reason why we’ll go and get blood tests is because, you know, the breath test is really looking for alcohol alone, whereas the blood test we could screen for more narcotics and things of that nature.”

A Shackleford County sheriff mentioned that up until a few years ago, he was not seeing a lot of cocaine in the area. Now, he sees a lot of that more often. Couch shared that this can be traced back to the border crisis.

“Yeah, it’s more relevant. And I think anytime that we that as long as we continuously have a porous border, and so much of our resources are tied up on dealing with people, human trafficking is still a big deal. So, if you would just kind of think about that as white noise all up and down the border. And so you might have an influx of maybe, say, 100 or 200 people trying to cross in an area on one side of the border. What’s happening is the cartels going to be moving drugs. When law enforcement is flexing to that one point, they’re moving drugs into another area across and getting them into the country. And then and then making their way through, “Couch shared.

He added that they have only scratched the surface but are working tirelessly to detect even more.

“And that’s just scratching the surface of what we’re not seeing… The things you never will see and won’t detect or find. Because look at it through economics, the drug cartels are not losing money. You know, and we’re doing the best we can to intercept it. That’s a reason why the border has to be secure. If we can lock down the choke points to where there can, they can only cross in certain areas that we can flex in those areas and really maximize what we do with technology and all the things that we do to make sure that we’re finding and detecting as much as possible,” Couch explained.

He said that it is more common now to deploy DPS troopers from the Big Country to the border.

“It’s just it’s part of our operation. Now. It’s something when I first started the Highway Patrol, you know, over 16 years ago, we would never travel anywhere. I mean, I went down to the first five years I was on the force. And when the shuttle went down, that was the really the first deployment that we had, outside of, you know, hurricane duties and things of that as natural disasters happen. But typically, we would go anywhere, and now our troopers are traveling, some of them… they’re going down for ten days of deployments, and then they’re coming back and maybe being back for maybe 30 days before they’re deployed,” Couch said. “So, you know, all of our troopers right now are very tasked with doing a lot of travel to the border, both Del Rio El Paso from this area. And then also, we also have the Austin wave, that we’re also doing travel there to help flex for the needs around Austin and try to help them get their city under control.”

Couch urges the federal government to provide more support at the border.

“We would like to have more of a set of things the federal government could do is take care of the border, and you know, finish the law, do some things like that, that would help minimize the footprint or the flexing that the Texas Department of Safety has to do as well as the Border Patrol. Border Patrol has a task that’s just overwhelming for them. And most of them are not patrolling the border; they’re processing people. And so even the resources that we have, people keep talking about putting 800,000 more, like taking the IRS agents that they’re saying they’re gonna put on the force. And then you got the other side, the issue is we’re going to take those, and we’re going to put those people on the border. Well, that’s great. But until you do something about a physical barrier down there to stop the access to be able to get in, there’s just too many vast areas that can be opened up. And it’s just not going to be satisfied by putting people there. And again, they can’t just be put there as a welcoming committee, to when people come across are like, welcome to our country. And here’s your slip and go into the country. There’s got to be a point where we say you’re not coming in, and if you do make it to this side, we’re just going to take you back,” said Couch.

People all across the United States are gearing up for Labor Day weekend. Couch said that Labor Day is like a ‘last hurrah’ of the summer and wants to remind the public to have a plan before going out to celebrate.

“We just want people to be reminded to make sure that you’re designating or planning ahead before they celebrate if you ask anyone that I might arrest on DWI, or who’s involved in a crash and said, ‘Hey, did you plan on this happening to you tonight?’ No one’s gonna say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was gonna get arrested.’ But the problem is your judgment is the first thing that leaves whenever alcohol gets introduced into your system, and so the time to make decisions about how you’re going to get home and all those things are not after you’ve had the drinks and you’re at the bar, or you’re at the party or someone’s house. It’s really before you leave,” Couch shared.

He encourages the public to plan ahead, such as securing a sober ride, checking the vehicle’s conditions, and other precautionary measures to ensure a great holiday.

“So we want people to designate before they celebrate, make sure they’ve got you’re using ride share and all those other things that are there. Check your vehicle’s condition. If you’re going to plan on traveling across Texas, of course, it’s still hot during the day. If your tires are inflated, it could also blow or have a blowout, which caused a crash. We want to make sure that you’re using your seatbelt and that you’re not distracted while you’re driving. Of course, speed is still the leading factor in most crashes… When you start stacking up things like speed and the no seatbelt, and you add DWI on top of all those things, those are the combinations when you get those factors added into a crash into up into a fatality,” explained Couch.

He mentioned that those who contribute to someone driving under the influence can also face repercussions when it comes to drinking and driving.

“If you go back to even contributing to someone’s death, if you knew they were impaired and let them go or overserved them in, especially in an establishment. I know our brothers with TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] work our bars and those kinds of things that we work with them. A lot of our DWI crashes, we can actually go back based on cell phone information and things that we can get; we can actually go back to the location where they were served,” Couch shared. “And TABC can help us go inside there. And we can get every drink that you paid for every drink that you drank, and get the cameras and all the things that we need to make a case in regards to someone’s actions involved in what they’re involved in there, whether they hurt somebody else, or they kill someone could mean maybe you’re facing a criminally negligent homicide case or an intoxicated manslaughter situation, depending on the case that’s going out there.”

Couch shared some pointers that can help people get home safely while having a great time.

“What we want people to do is to make sure they’re not getting into that situation. So, if you’re hosting a party, make sure you’re not over-serving your guests. Maybe keep track, maybe have a kind of a fun way to mark down how much someone has had to drink. And maybe make sure that drink is not happening, like two or three drinks in an hour. Spread that out over the evening, make sure you’re serving food, and get something in their stomach so that it lessens the level of intoxication; maybe lessen the serving sizes that you’re putting out there,” Couch explained. “And just do your part to make sure that at the end of the day, if you’ve done that someone’s been drinking, it’s better for you not to send them out at all. And so maybe use Uber, or maybe you’re going to help them get home or make sure that their designated driver has not been consuming any alcohol before they leave your place to make sure everyone goes home safely so that everybody that you love in your life gets home safely, you don’t have to go to their funeral later on based on something that you did or throwing your own party.”

Couch emphasized the importance of wearing a seatbelt, particularly at night, in reducing the severity of crashes.

“All fatality crashes that occur at nighttime, which is kind of surprising to see that 60% of those people in nighttime crashes are fatality crashes. If I had to guarantee that a 50% chance you would win the lottery if I gave you a set of numbers. You know, would you not play those numbers? Well, I’m giving you I’m telling you right now that if you will wear your seatbelt, you have a 50% chance of surviving a crash,” Couch shared.

When traveling, Couch urges the public to practice safe driving by buckling up, removing distractions, and pulling over if feeling tired.

“With those kinds of odds, why would you not wear it? You know, it’s just like playing a lottery, whatever I have been trying to think of a campaign about, you know, you can bet on it — the seatbelt — bet on it. Because over 50% of the time, you’re going to be correct by having it on it; might save your life. And so we just want to stress to people to make sure they’re buckling up, get those distractions out. Plan ahead. Don’t drive drowsy. If you pull over and get some sleep if you need to, get off the road if you find yourself getting drowsy. Those kinds of things, move over slow down, watch for our officers out there that are working. And then certainly make sure that you’re designating that celebration planning ahead to ensure your safety and the safety of others as you’re traveling,” Couch added.