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Jim Wells County's Sanchez Drive Inn demolished in hopes to deter crime in the area

Sanchez Drive Inn 1.jpg
Posted at 11:17 AM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 12:38:34-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In its heyday, Sanchez Drive Inn in Jim Wells County was a popular spot to grab a meal and a beer.

Now closed down and abandoned, the building is being used for all types of illegal activity and has become an eye sore.

KRIS 6 News spoke with county leaders who are fighting back, and they're starting with demolishing what's turned into a haven for crime.

"It's scary, so I don't know what to think, so I lock my door. It happens at night. I'm scared they'll come back," said longtime resident Esperanza Garza.

Esperanza Garza has been a resident of the Rancho Alegre area for decades. She remembers when it was a safe place to live and raise a family, but what she's seen lately is an area riddled with drugs and prostitution.

It's an issue county leaders and law enforcement have seen only get worse.

"It's been a problem for many years, but it's gotten worse. Our community has been infested with drugs," said Margie Gonzalez with Jim Wells County Precinct 1.

At the corner of Gulf Street and Range Street stood the once popular Sanchez Drive Inn.

Now, all that stands is an abandoned shell of a building used for illegal activity.

The final straw came in June when authorities found the body of a man in his 50s who died from a drug overdose.

Sheriff Daniel Bueno says enough is enough.

"We're able to get together and demolish this area and utilize our officers to station themselves there as well as a tower that is going to be brought in," said Jim Wells County Sheriff Daniel Bueno.

Neighboring Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. Eddie Guerra has agreed to loan its sky watch tower in an effort to fight crime and drug problems.

It will allow deputies 360 degrees of surveillance in hopes of deterring illegal activities, but we wanted to see what residents thought.

Several folks didn't answer, and others just didn't want to speak on camera. A family member of the old Sanchez Drive Inn says something needed to be done.

"Sanchez Drive Inn, it was a bar at night, but when we were smaller during the day, it was a restaurant," said a family member familiar with the drive inn's history.

It was a place where residents could go for a burger and fries and, after dark, enjoy a cold beer after a hard day's work.

The county recently got permission to tear down the now local drug and prostitution hangout.

"I know they feel like nothing is being done, but it's a plan, it's a process. I know the sheriff has been working on it with their drug team, and it's a process," said Margie Gonzalez with Jim Wells County Precinct 1.

A process community members hope to turn around the beloved neighborhood.

The sky watch tower is expected in the area any day now. The hope is its presence will give law enforcement a better idea of who's committing the crime in the area and who to target for illegal activity.