New U.S. mar­shal touts co­op­er­a­tion with Austin-area law en­force­ment, hopes to ex­pand task force

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By Steven Krey­tak skrey­tak@states­man.com; 912-2946

In his short ten­ure as the U.S. mar­shal for the Western District of Texas, which in­cludes Austin, Robert Al­monte said he has been im­pressed with the re­la­tion­ships forged be­tween the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice fugi­tive-hunt­ing spe­cial­ists and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

That co­op­er­a­tion has been es­pe­cially strong in Austin, where the work of a mar­shal-led task force that in­cludes Austin po­lice and Travis County sher­iff’s deputies has led to the cap­ture of some of the most no­to­ri­ous lo­cal crim­i­nals in re­cent years, in­clud­ing now- con­victed killers Colton Pitonyak and Paul Devoe.

Al­monte, a for­mer El Paso deputy po­lice chief, wants to ex­pand the reach of the task force and con­vince the law en­force­ment agen­cies in his district that mar­shals are very good at hunt­ing bad guys and that they have the per­son­nel to find them quickly.

That’s one of the goals he is pitch­ing while he vis­its Austin this week to meet some of the peo­ple work­ing for him, as well as of­fi­cials from other po­lice agen­cies.

“We are ready. We’ve got the man­power, and they are re­ally good at find­ing peo­ple,” Al­monte said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the down­town Austin fed­eral courthouse. “I want that to con­tinue.”

Al­monte, 53, is an ap­pointee of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. He was con­firmed by the U.S. Se­nate in March and sworn into of­fice in June.

Al­monte worked for the El Paso Po­lice Depart­ment for 25 years, more than half of it as a nar­cotics de­tec­tive or su­per­vi­sor, be­fore re­tir­ing in 2003.

He then trained nar­cotics of­fi­cers and served as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Texas Nar­cotics Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion be­fore his phone rang last year and he was in­formed that Obama wanted to nom­i­nate him for the fed­eral post, pre­vi­ously held by LaFayette Collins.

“I never imag­ined this would hap­pen,” Al­monte said. “If I did any­thing right, I think I had a knack of sur­round­ing my­self with great peo­ple. They made me look good, and me get­ting this job is a trib­ute to them.”

Al­monte and his wife re­cently moved from his life­long home in El Paso to San An­to­nio, where the district head­quar­ters are lo­cated.

They have two grown chil­dren — a son who is a pros­e­cu­tor in El Paso and a daugh­ter who is a doc­tor in McAllen.

In ad­di­tion to hunt­ing fugi­tives, the Mar­shals Ser­vice pro­tects fed­eral judges and court­houses, trans­ports fed­eral pris­on­ers and seizes prop­erty il­le­gally acquired by crim­i­nals.

The Western District, where Al­monte com­mands 195 deputies, cov­ers 91,531 square miles and 68 Texas coun­ties in Cen­tral, South and West Texas.

Al­monte said he is look­ing for­ward to con­sol­i­dat­ing the Lone Star Fugi­tive Task Force in Austin at the new fed­eral courthouse down­town when it opens in fall 2012. Seg­ments of the task force are cur­rently housed at Austin po­lice or Travis County fa­cil­i­ties.

“The best way to ad­dress crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity is to work to­gether,” Al­monte said.

Robert Al­monte Mar­shal ap­pointed by Obama was con­firmed in March, sworn into of­fice last month.

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