Special Report: Blurred jurisdiction lines

How El Paso County Sheriff's Office Uses Technology To Clear Up Coverage Confusion

Where police patrol boundaries end and sheriff patrol boundaries begin

EL PASO, Texas - The city of El Paso is growing and changing month by month. Many of those changes have come from annexations on the far east side. And they're also creating some blurred lines for law enforcement.

ABC-7 rode along with El Paso County Sheriff's Office Deputy Manny Marquez recently to see those changes firsthand.
"When they had just built the Lowe's and the Walmart, you'd drive out to where the Peter Piper Pizza is and you'd have the city limits sign," said Dep. Marquez, pointing at the businesses across the street from the Sheriff's Office headquarters in Far East El Paso.

The city limits sign is still standing in the median of Montana Avenue. Now, it serves as a watermark -- an example of how times have changed.

"All this area was nothing but desert," said Marquez, who has been on patrol with EPCSO for 31 years.

"I may be aging myself here," Marquez said as he drove down Zaragoza Road. "This road used to be a little two-lane highway that came off a little highway -- that was Loop 375 -- all the way to Montana. This thing wasn't lit. It was dark. There were huts on the side of the road."

Now -- there's a Pizza Hut. There are also shops and lots of houses. The land once overseen by Sheriff deputies is now patrolled by El Paso police officers. The straight lines of jurisdiction are now more like checkerboards -- with county land sometimes dividing stretches of city land.

Marquez drove ABC-7 to a neighborhood off Zaragoza -- county patrol area surrounded by homes in the city. The backyard wall of the city properties, which range in value from $138,000 to $200,000, overlook the county land. Some of it is undeveloped. But there are also small houses, an abandoned, unfinished house and a plumbing company.

"We have a lot of quads motorcycles going down the street -- the the dirt road," said Luis Rivera-Miura. He has lived in one of the houses that has a city park beyond his front door and county sand dunes beyond the back wall.

Rivera-Miura, who was been living in El Paso since being stationed at Fort Bliss three years ago, admitted he was baffled when he first moved here.

"Where do I pay the taxes to? I was a little confused."

He's not the only one. ABC-7 talked to patrons of a gas station on Zaragoza about the potential confusion.

"I actually don't know what jurisdiction is out here," said Gracie DeSantiago, who just moved to El Paso from California a month ago. "I don't know if it's city, sheriff. I don't know who would be responding should I have to call someone."
"We don't know who we're supposed to call," said Butch Duncan, who's lived on the far east side for a year.

Marquez said that comment was more common when the patrol deputies had to hand-draw their jurisdiction maps.

As recently as three years ago -- Sheriff's units were equipped with an updated GPS and mapping system. Sheriff Office staff constantly updates the electronic maps. The city and the county land is identified by different colors. And all law enforcement dispatchers now work together to determine which department should respond to incoming calls. The systems have eliminated most confusion for law enforcement.

"We both respond. Usually when it's really close they send the city and the county," Marquez added.

Technology has created a more efficient system for constantly changing boundaries.

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