VICTORIA (KAVU) - Before the lights turn on, everyone’s shift at the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office starts the same.
"You walk in, you clock in, head into the patrol room for a quick briefing, and that's where the routine ends.” Sgt. Travis Gundelach said.
Empty desks fill the patrol room at the sheriff's office. Instead of sitting at a computer, deputies are out on the road patrolling.
“Looking for suspicious people in suspicious places. If there are some areas where we've been having a lot of burglaries, we're going to be paying extra attention to those areas. Looking for traffic violations, just any reason we can stop and make contact with people and do a quick interview with them and see if it's just some soccer mom dropping off their kids or someone up to criminal activity." Sgt. Gundelach said.
A slow night behind the wheel can quickly turn to a high speed chase and manhunt. Within a blink of an eye a slow shift became a search on foot for a possible intoxicated suspect that left his crashed truck behind. Just down the road, deputies found an overturned SUV in the ditch abandoned by a woman. Soon they discovered the two scenes were related. After a couple of hours of searching, deputies called it a night, but left the scene with all the information they needed to catch the suspects another day.
Behind the wheel, deputies respond to several crimes a day. Since 2008 the sheriff's office has seized over $7 million worth of drugs. Within a matter of a few months, they have already responded to over 70 assaults and nearly 150 burglaries.
"Some of the major crimes are to the person and to the property." Sheriff T. Michal O’Connor said.
A crime to the person is what sent deputies knocking on a door the night we followed them, putting a man in handcuffs.
“Just placed an individual under arrest for suspicion of indecency with a child.” Sgt. Gundelach said.
Deputies say unfortunately, indecency with a child isn't a crime that is unusual in Victoria County. Another crime that has the sheriff's office on the move, domestic violence.
“I wouldn't hesitate to say we go to several a shift. that's not unusual." Sgt. Gundelach said.
So far this year, the sheriff's office has responded to over 100 domestic and family violence cases, which is not only a danger to the people involved but also to the responding deputy.
“I think statistics have shown historically that if there is a chance of a police officer being injured, it's most likely going to be on a domestic violence call." Sgt. Gundelach said.
The danger in the uniform is something deputies are aware of.
"We have to make sure that they are on their game at all times and not off their guard due to the severity of what might happen upon them. We don't look at it as for as a risk factor. We signed up for it. We know the responsibility and we know the consequences." Sheriff O’Connor said.
For almost 16 years, Sgt. Travis Gundelach has been patrolling the streets. During that time, he has faced at least one suspect that put his life in danger while serving a warrant.
“There was a wanted subject that we had gotten a civil warrant on out of the city and we approached the residence and we ended up getting in contact with the guy. He fled the scene when he realized we were trying to apprehend him and a pursuit followed fairly lengthy pursuit. During the course of the pursuit, there was a one of our area troopers and I got behind the vehicle that was fleeing and the subject began firing shoots at us." Sgt. Gundelach said.
Those shots that were missed, is something Sgt. Gundelach will never forget.
When it comes to punching the gas, human smuggling is another crime that deputies can almost expect a pursuit during. In 2012, deputies saw 21 bailouts with 250 to 300 undocumented immigrants. It's a number that is becoming bigger.
“Each time they talk, and they Washington talk about a degree of amnesty or citizenship, we see this mass entrance. The word gets south and all over the world that you got to get here and you got to be in place for the potential eligibility amnesty or citizenship." Sheriff O’Connor said.
During the summer, deputies said they saw around 5 bailouts with nearly 100 undocumented immigrants in a matter of a week, and more than half of them fled.
“Most the time you don't know that you are pulling over a load of undocumented immigrants until their punching through a fence and all jumping out of the vehicle. They're normally secreted, they're lying down, they're laying low, they're in the bed of the pickup; they're covered up by something. You feel it's going to be a routine traffic stop until you attempt to make contact and most often they're going to flee. They are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to avoid apprehension." Sgt. Gundelach said.
No matter what crime turns on patrol lights, proper training keeps deputies at the edge of their seats and behind the badge.