When we think of associations for the bail industry, we tend to think of national groups like ABC and PBUS or state associations such as CBAA, PBAI, PBT or SCBAA. One must really think hard to come up with county level bail associations. I can think of San Diego, Orange and Santa Clara counties in California or Tarrant and Harris counties in Texas. There is one other Texas county association way down in The Valley of the Rio Grande showing some grit, the Hidalgo County Bail Bond Association.
McAllen and Edinburg are the two largest cities in Hidalgo County with a population of nearly 850,000 residents. They are situated in what is known as The Valley, a four-county region which sits on the Rio Grande River across from Mexico.
Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill is credited with saying, "all politics is local." The HCBBA has taken this assertion very seriously under its current president Rene Anzaldua.
Rene opened his bonding company, A-Quick Bail Bonds in 2003. I spent some time with Rene last week when we both attended the PBT membership meeting in Austin. Rene shared with me some of the initiatives the association has undertaken.
Rene said, recently retired bondsman Tillman Welch was a force of nature everyone relied upon to speak for the local bonding community. Rene, who was elected HCBBA president in January, knew he had big boots to fill if he was to lead the association into the future. It was critical that the HCBBA maintain the same presence with the local criminal justice community.
Together with the help of HCBBA Vice President, Rene Ortega and Secretary, Irma Montemayor, they went about getting things done.
The first order of business was to increase their membership (which they did almost immediately) recruiting 22 of the 26 bonding companies doing business in Hidalgo County.
They wanted to build on the Meet and Greet with local judges and clerks held last October. At that event they presented each justice of the peace with a Texas flag that had flown over the state capitol. Since then HCBBA has invited a local official to speak at each of their regular meetings.
Members of the HCBAA participate in local fundraisers revolving around golf outings, fishing tournaments and skeet shooting events. The HCBBA recently sponsored and members participated in the Annual Walk for Crime Victims and Survivors. The members recognize how the service they provide to those arrested for crimes also help victims by ensuring these individuals appear at trial.
Establishing relationships with other representatives of the criminal justice systems has afforded HCBBA members to provide a better understanding of how the bail system works, its effectiveness and benefits to the community. Conversely, HCBBA members obtain a better understanding of the perspectives of law enforcement and members of the judiciary and court clerks.
Now when these same officials are approached by outsiders with grandiose schemes of risk assessment tools, computer algorithms and costly government pretrial release agencies, they can put those lofty claims into perspective. Hopefully, they will send these solicitors on their way to the next town to sell their goods elsewhere.
Time and time again we find a key to stopping adverse legislative initiatives at the state capitol is a senator or representative who has a true understanding of the efficacy of the commercial bail industry solely due to the relationship established by a bail agent residing in their district.
If you’re looking to start a county bail association or having difficulty getting your organization focused, reach out to the HCBBA. I’m sure they would be more than willing to provide some insights on where they’ve been successful.