Border officials say their communities aren't being overrun with "lawless hordes" of Mexican drug runners and people smugglers, and they said Gov. Rick Perry is painting an inaccurate scary picture of their home.

Last week, Perry announced he was sending teams of Texas Rangers and Texas National Guard troops to protect border landowners from extortion and threats from violent criminal organizations and to prevent spillover violence from Mexico.

The Texas Border Coalition, a group of elected officials and business leaders, wrote Perry a letter taking issue with the impression they say he created — that the border is overrun with criminals and violence.

"While each of our communities has their own unique issues, being overwhelmed by criminal elements from Mexico is not one of them," wrote Chad Foster, coalition chairman and Eagle Pass mayor.

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Crime is down in the region, Foster wrote, and apprehensions of illegal immigrants are declining, too.

Foster urged the governor to ensure that the Rangers and National Guard troops coordinate with law enforcement already in the region.

Some law enforcement officials have also expressed skepticism about the need for Rangers and National Guard troops. Juarez, the most violent spot in the ongoing Mexican drug war, is across the Rio Grande from El Paso. But local police on the U.S. side told the El Paso Times that there has been no escalation in crime.

"Unfortunately, we have always had crimes related to that, but they are very rare," El Paso police spokesman Javier Sambrano told the Times.

Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said state-led border security efforts that use local, state and federal officers, like Operation Border Star, are the reason for crime reductions on the border.

The so-called Ranger recon teams, she said, would continue that model.

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"The mission of the Ranger Recon Teams is a specific response to a specific threat in remote areas along the border where criminals are exploiting cracks in the seams," Cesinger said via e-mail, "and we will continue to work with local law enforcement through Operation Border Star to ensure the safety of these communities."

bgrissom@texastribune.org

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