By Jane Smith
Palm Beach County recently received a $210,000 grant through Operation Stonegarden, which is run by the U.S. Border Patrol’s South Florida office in Pembroke Pines.
The money will be used to offset overtime and equipment costs for the Border Patrol and local law enforcement agencies, including the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, along the county’s coastline.
“The waters off our shoreline are notorious for illegal activities, and these patrols are effective and necessary,” said County Commissioner Steven Abrams when announcing the grant in early May. Abrams’ district includes 22 miles of the South County coastline.
The grant will aid the Border Patrol’s work with coastal law enforcement agencies to intercept anyone trying to get into the U.S. illegally.
“Palm Beach County is one of our best partners,” said Robert P. Swathwood Jr., operations officer in charge of the Border Patrol’s Operation Stonegarden for the Miami sector.
The program started in Tucson, Ariz., in 1990, he said. “In early 2000, the program was formally called Operation Stonegarden and expanded into the Southwest.
“In 2009, the program expanded to include the coast and Puerto Rico,” he said. For that budget year, “nine counties applied in Florida to get $870,000.” Palm Beach County was among the nine.
PBSO spokesperson Teri Barbera said how the money will be spent “is an operations decision which PBSO is not willing to discuss.”
Swathwood did not know the genesis of the Operation Stonegarden name, but theorized that it originated in the southern Appalachian Mountains, where “mountain folks referred to anything that was difficult or required work as ‘hoeing a garden of stone.’”