TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – On this week’s edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz spoke with Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sergeant Marc Couch about human trafficking and fentanyl crisis’ on the border and in the Big Country.

Couch began working in the Big Country last year and in August of 2022, he spoke about the trafficking of the fatal drug fentanyl. Recently within the last week, the Justice Department announced charges against the Sinaloa Cartel’s global operation and progress is being made on the Texas-Mexico border on the war against fentanyl.

“I think there’s always progress, it may be small or in small steps, but things like we’re doing right now, just awareness, public awareness of it,” Couch shared. “If we can even close down or shut down people’s desire to even be a part of that type of drug activity will help curb why it even comes over the border in those ways.”

Couch added that the true war on the border is human trafficking and illegal drugs. Governor Abbott announced last week that the Texas DPS seized over 3.1 million lethal doses of fentanyl, or about 14 pounds during a single Operation Lone Star traffic stop down in Mission. The seizure marks one of the largest single fentanyl seizures by OLS to date. Since this, Texas DPS is focusing on emphasizing more on detecting or identifying illegal drugs.

“Those are the things that were after because that seizure of narcotics right there is well over enough to kill nearly the entire country several times over,” Couch expressed.

Back in February, a third suspect was arrested during a human trafficking investigation at Fun Noodle Bar here in Abilene. When we think of human trafficking, so much aligns itself with sex trafficking, but that’s not always the case – a lot has to do with forced labor.

“The forced labor… could be people that’s just out doing yard work or their painting your house or they could be a nail technician,” Couch explained. “It can take on so many different forms of forced labor that’s out there, it’s just important that we do everything we can to try and stop those things from happening.”

Couch shared that some of the signs people can look for in these situations are the way that people carry themselves (blending into the background, staying very quiet, etc.) or looking for stash houses with many people and not many accommodations.

“This becomes the battle, how to identify it, how to see it. It becomes the hard part and what we wait for, a lot of times is an outcry of a victim or someone involved,” Couch shared.

He added that it can be easier to do the further they are away from the border, like in Abilene or further north to people who are less suspecting of this crisis to be near them.

Texas troopers have been busy lately and have been sent to the border, Austin and more. Couch said this is partially due to the status of what troopers can do through their jurisdiction across the entire state.

“Because of the reputation and what we have for the state, that we are utilized so very often. When something happens that needs to have a fix right to it, a lot of times the Texas Department of Public Safety is brought in,” Couch shared.

While most, if not all, people do not enjoy seeing those flashing lights behind them while driving or receiving a ticket, Couch asks people to be mindful of sharing the road with troopers, especially when they are stepping in and out of their vehicles.

“Our office is basically a vehicle that we’re working out of and so whenever we exit that vehicle out there on the side of the roadway, it becomes a very dangerous place with vehicles going by you at 75 and 80 miles per hour,” Couch said. “Just want to remind people they are required (to move over). If they can’t move over to vacate the lane they’re in, then they must slow down 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit.”

In the next few weeks, DPS will be opening a new driver’s license office in Abilene. Couch wants to remind citizens to remember to use the appointment calendar and is excited to show the public this new space.

“We’re so excited to have this new facility coming to the Big Country area to really help us get some more space. Our driver’s license people have been crammed into a smaller building and their operations have gotten bigger,” Couch expressed.