Crime Watch: Mustang Ridge Police in need of ballistic vests

Last fall, FOX 7 learned that Granger police were patrolling the city without ballistic vests. We showed you the need and you answered. Thanks to your gracious donations, Granger police were able to purchase vests for every officer. They even had a surplus for future needs.

FOX 7 has learned of another threatening issue. According to a recent DPS report, the drug cartel's new preferred travel route runs through the patrol territory of the Mustang Ridge Police Department.

Here's the problem--the small town officers are going up against the cartel with outdated ballistic vests and broken down patrol cars.

Mustang Ridge is such a small agency that if you call for help, the chief himself will answer. It's a tight-knit group of four full-time officers and three reserves. The leadership literally gives ballistic vests off their backs to protect those who are on patrol.
That means Lt. Gary Russell doesn't have one. He describes that as, "Disturbing, uncomfortable.'

Vests are not meant to be shared as Russell demonstrated on camera.

"It covers over the top, but it needs to go down to the belly. This one is too small for me," he said.

And it's worn out. The manufacture date on the tag is November 2002. Russell says it should have been thrown away 10 years ago. He says some vests his officers wear are newer, but all are past the expiration date.

"After five years the fibers, the microfiber of the vest they start to spread apart. They're no longer valid for five years. If you take microfibers and you spread them apart it leaves gaps and if you see a gap and if a bullet hits that gap it's going to go right through," said Russell.

Vests are only one safety concern for the department. Two of the five patrol cars are not in working order.

"Three are running okay. The chief's unit has 160 thousand miles on it, we've had nothing but problems with it replaced two motors. My unit's been in the shop many times. It's been through three motors," said Russell.

The mileage on Russell's car is 241 thousand. No cars have working dash cameras.

Officers need vehicles that can handle the high speed roadways surrounding the department--especially with the new revelation that the drug cartels are transporting their products through there.

"DPS came out with a new study that the drug cartels are coming up 130 from 21 and going to I-10 and we don't have state presence because they're having to move them down to the border to help secure it at this time," said Russell.

Russell says prior to his arrival one month ago, the city passed a budget for the year to include a loan for a new building--which is much needed, but there are no remaining funds for equipment.

The 100 Club of Central Texas has partnered with the department to raise money. Mustang Ridge needs your help.

"We all know that when we come to work we may not go home, but we do it because we want to. It's a calling. We are peace officers for a reason, but we need the correct tools, the safety nets, to do our jobs effectively," said Russell.

The 100 Club of Central Texas is collecting donations for the department. Click here and select "Mustang Ridge." Each vest costs between $800 and $1,100.