County officials meet with oil reps

Police presence in northern Culberson County came one step closer to reality after a meeting between county officials and representatives from Chevron, one of the big players in the exploding oil and gas industry. The two-hour session gave Craig Matthews and Jeremy Haken a platform for identifying the needs in the northern parts of the county, especially along Highway 285 and 652, where truck traffic is non-stop and dangerous enough to have earned Highway 285 the title of “Death Highway.”

Much of Highway 285 is in Reeves County except for a short strip from Orla to the New Mexico state line, but Highway 652 is primarily in Culberson County, and equally as dangerous. These two highways have very little law enforcement patrols, with Reeves County Sheriff’s Department and DPS troopers already stretched thin trying to keep up with the burgeoning oil population. Culberson County’s two-hour-plus response time from Van Horn makes it next to impossible to provide coverage without leaving the town short-handed with the current staff. As such, commissioners’ court recently agreed to fund two more deputies to enable the Sheriff to comply with current needs.

Matthews and Haken told county officials that they were fully vested in assisting the county in setting up a post in the area. Mr. Matthews reported that Chevron already has man-camp rooms that could be used to house local deputies so that they would not have to make the long trip back to Van Horn nightly. The group also discussed the possibility of Chevron donating extremely visible signs that flash red and blue to replicate the familiar lights on a police cruiser and would serve as a deterrent to would-be speeders.

Mr. Haken went even further and asked Sheriff Carrillo to make a “wish-list” of what it would take to adequately provide a presence up north and promised to do his best to contribute as much as possible on the list. The group agreed to continue the conversation and to seek cooperation from the other oil companies to expedite implementation of designated deputies to reduce the danger on the highways as a good start.