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June 21, 2005
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Laredo to get help for police communications

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Extra state police and federal grant money for a communications system will be sent to the Laredo area to help authorities make the border more secure amid escalating drug-related violence and reports of police corruption in Nuevo Laredo.

As soon as early next week, a $1.2 million federal grant handled by the governor's criminal justice division could be used by the city of Laredo, state and local officials said. The money will help pay for a planned $8 million communication system that will allow all emergency agencies there to share the same communications channel for the first time.

"I'm just hopeful that's going to happen," Mayor Betty Flores said. "I don't know it's the entire money we need, but it's something to get us going."

Flores sent an urgent letter to Gov. Rick Perry on Monday, asking for more resources to combat the threat of Mexican violence spilling over into Laredo. Perry responded Wednesday by asking for more Department of Public Safety troopers be sent to the area. The troopers will also have access to the department's helicopters.

The number of troopers wasn't disclosed. Warring drug traffickers in Nuevo Laredo are blamed for that city's 60 murders this year and corrupting some police officers to join their cause. The Mexican government sent federal forces there last week to quell the crisis that some Laredo residents believe has spread to the U.S. side.

Laredo also stands to receive more than $330,000 in a $1.4 million grant pending with the state Homeland Security Office and earmarked also for improving that region's police communications.

Other smaller and mid-size cities there have communications equipment up to 25 years old, according to the South Texas Development Council, the organization that administers government funding for a four-county region in and around Laredo.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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