Thank you Chief [Art] Acevedo. It is an honor to be here today, in the company of men and women, who have dedicated their lives to keeping our neighborhoods, streets and highways safe. Knowing you're all in town for couple days makes me feel even safer than usual and we have a great law enforcement community here.
For those of you visiting from out of state, welcome to Texas. Our state is known for a lot of things, from boots to creating jobs, but our dedication to law and order is particularly legendary.
Texans know that keeping the peace is not a job for the faint of heart, that it takes a special person, to shoulder the responsibility of protecting others. Whether you wear the tan of our State Troopers, the dark navy of the Dallas Police Department, or even the desert camouflage of the U.S. Army, every uniform signifies the dedication of the individual wearing it.
In my view, the men and women who wear the uniform are a beacon of light in a sometimes dark world. We will always need officers who will use intellect, compassion and, yes, force, to prevent the tyranny of the lawless, and to preserve the freedom of the law-abiding.
On behalf of 24 million Texans, thank you for all you and your departments do, be it in Memphis, Tennessee, or Calgary, Alberta. Because, as the world grows smaller, we know what happens in your corner of the world has a way of affecting our corner of the world, and it takes a cooperative effort by all of us to ensure the bad guys don't get the drop on us.
To use a Texas example, we've got a challenging situation along our border to the south a line on a map that separates us from some of the most vicious drug cartels in the world. What happens along that border affects every single one of us, because, without border security, there can be no national security.
Border security is, of course, a federal issue, but it's also a state and local issue, when our federal Border Patrol agents are underfunded, outnumbered and underequipped.
To be clear, we have nothing but respect for the men and women of our Border Patrol, they work hard and put their lives on the line every single day, alongside our own peace officers. We just feel they are consistently shortchanged by the federal government.
So, over the past several years, we've invested significant resources, $110 million in each of the last legislative sessions, to put more boots on the ground along that border. We have dedicated significant state resources to ensuring those local, state and federal officers, have the technology, support and training they need, to disrupt the operations of these cartels. These efforts have caused a 60% drop in crime rates in targeted areas.
We're proud of our successes, but I don't have to tell anyone in this room that our challenges along the border are far from finished. Indeed, the cartels have responded to our efforts by adapting, by changing tactics, and probing the border for blind spots and weak points, where they can continue smuggling drugs, humans and other contraband across the border.
To keep ahead of their innovations, we introduced a few of our own, including Ranger Recon Teams, units composed of Texas Rangers, Texas Military Members, DPS Troopers, and local law enforcement personnel. These units have the know-how, the skill and the experience to deal with new hot spots that flare up, and the support to shut them down.
Innovative programs like Ranger Recon are a big part of what we need to effectively combat those who seek to do us harm.
A second part of the equation and every bit as important, is the need for ongoing and expanded communication, between law enforcement organizations at every level. We must do a better job of sharing information across all jurisdictional boundaries, because we know our enemies do.
You all know the old saying that "you can't outrun a radio", and our troublemakers along the border and across the state, are learning that it's tough to outrun our coordinated law enforcement efforts. Our fusion centers are multiplying our efforts at every turn.
By plugging the gaps in our intelligence networks, and sharing data more effectively between agencies, it is tougher than ever for wrongdoers to hide their identities ...or their intentions.
We've made big progress since 9/11. 72 fusion centers have been established across the country, including one here in Austin, that combs through data on a 24-hour basis, synthesizing and identifying trends that could indicate criminal, or even terrorist, activity, and getting it to folks with the need to know.
Collaboration, again, is key. We're currently working on another fine example of the sort of collaboration I'm talking about, the City of Austin Police Department, and its regional law enforcement partners are collaborating with the Texas Department of Public Safety to create the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.
The Austin Regional Intelligence Center, or ARIC, will become an autonomous regional center, co-locating in the same facility as the State of Texas Fusion center. I commend Chief Acevedo and his staff for their foresight in developing this important center.
It is a model of state and local cooperation in the interest of enhancing public safety at the local, state and national level.
I do feel a little like I'm preaching to the choir, because I know innovation and communication are important parts of what your organization is all about. By bringing together the largest departments on the continent, and by ensuring each of you is well-versed on the latest in leadership, law-enforcement techniques and legislation, you are helping to take the good work each of you is doing individually and spread it, coast to coast.
In your conversations, you may discover that an innovative program working in Florida may also apply in California, and may work even better with a tweak offered by someone who tried it in Georgia. Conversely, sharing your experience with a program that didn't work as planned in your area, could save someone planning a similar approach elsewhere a whole lot of trouble and money.
Put simply, we learn from our successes and we learn from our failures. When those lessons are shared and the principles carried home, you will make it even harder to commit crime in your communities and even less rewarding for criminals.
I applaud your efforts, and wish you continued success in keeping your communities safe.
May God bless you, and, through you, may He continue to bless the great State of Texas, and the rest of the United States of America.