Thu, 02 Sep 2010 18:24:05 GMT — Federal officials confirmed two Mexican military helicopter incursions took place in skies over Starr and Hidalgo County today but are asking the public not to be alarmed.
Local law enforcement officials were put on alert after a Mexican military helicopter was spotted in Alto Bonito and headed east into Hidalgo County.
Sources told Action 4 News tha tthe helicopter flew from Alto Bonito and then over Sullivan City and La Joya around 1 p.m. Thursday.
Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations confirmed that there were two helicopter incursions -- one between 9 and 10 am. and then another at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Air and Marine Operations spokesman Juan Muoz-Torres told Action 4 News that the agency was informed about the incursions by the Mexican government.
Muoz-Torres said the public should not be alarmed by the incursions.
The Air and Marine Operations spokesman said that a long-standing agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada allows for temporary incursions for medical or law enforcement purposes.
Rio Grande Valley residents have reported at least four Mexican helicopter incursions since March in communities along the border from Brownsville to Zapata.
Alto Bonito is located off U.S. Expressway 83 east of Rio Grande City and about two to three miles north of the Rio Grande river.
Muoz-Torres said Mexican military helicopter have increased due to the ongoing drug war south of the border.
The Air and Marine Operations spokesman said Mexican military helicopters cross the border for intelligence purposes allowing officials to get another view or perspective of their target area.
"They are not performing operations in the United States," Muoz-Torres said.
Local Law Enforcement Reacts
Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez told Action 4 News that he doesn't buy it.
Gonzalez said federal law enforcement officials did not inform local law enforcement officials about the incursions in today's incident and past incidents.
"They need to provide information to local law enforcement," Gonzalez said. "When people call us, we can tell them not to be alarmed."
Sheriff Gonzalez said Zapata residents witnessed a Mexican helicopter fly across Falcon Lake and hovering above a home there back in March.
Gonzalez said federal officials never provided an explanation for that incident or others.
Sheriff Gonzalez said he doesn't believe the Mexican helicopters are crossing to get a different angle or view of the Mexican said.
He said the helicopters in the Zapata incident and others are flying below the radar.
"If that's the case, they need to flya a little bit higher," Gonzalez said.
Muoz-Torres said the agency is looking to improve communications about the incursions through interagency task forces.
He said the Mexican military has a liaison at an Air and Marine Operations facility in California.
"More education is needed," Muoz-Torres said.