EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A man accused of smuggling migrants in an SUV crashed into a West El Paso Italian restaurant Thursday morning, one of several crashes involving migrants in recent weeks.

The SUV hit the corner of Como’s Italian Restaurant on Mesa Street, injuring five people – one with serious injuries. It came a week after another crash on Mesa Street injured nine migrants, including some people who were hidden in the trunk of a vehicle.

The Texas Department of Public Safety told KTSM 9 News that recent “criminal activity,” including migrant smuggling incidents, has prompted the agency to increase law enforcement presence on El Paso’s West Side.

“These efforts include multiple agencies,” said Lt. Elizabeth Carter, a DPS spokeswoman.

Carter said the added patrols are part of an operation that is separate from Operation Lone Star, the multi-billion-dollar border security initiative Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, launched in March 2021.

El Paso Police Department handled the investigation into Thursday morning’s crash.

A police spokesman said the SUV evaded police officers and there was no pursuit, adding that a man in his 20s faces charges of evading in a motor vehicle, evading on foot and human smuggling.

“Later, the vehicle ends up crashing here,” the spokesman said. “The officers arrive, locate the six people in the vehicle. The driver fled from the officers on foot” before being apprehended.

On Aug. 4, a DPS pursuit ended with a multi-vehicle crash that left nine injured, also on North Mesa Street. In this incident, several individuals were found in the trunk of the vehicle. One of the drivers was a 15-year-old U.S. citizen. The migrant passengers were turned over to Border Patrol.

On July 27, two people died in a rollover crash that also injured the driver and nine others on McNutt and Airport roads in Santa Teresa, N.M.

New Mexico State Police, which took over the investigation, said a Border Patrol agent attempted to stop the vehicle but backed off when the driver allegedly sped away.

The Mexican consulate confirmed that nine of the injured passengers were Mexican nationals. The two men who died also were Mexican nationals. The driver and his brother, who was uninjured in the crash, face federal smuggling charges.

On June 22, a DPS pursuit ended with a rollover crash on Loop 375 near the Padres Drive exit ramp. DPS confirmed that a DPS Highway Patrol trooper was involved in a vehicle pursuit and that eight migrants were apprehended.

KTSM 9 News asked the El Paso Police Department for its definition of a pursuit.

In a statement, police said it is: “Involving a vehicle, it’s an active attempt by an officer to apprehend or detain the occupants of another vehicle that is evading or ignoring the officer’s audible or visible signal to stop.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU) has been studying recent crashes involving the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso.

“A trend that I have observed over the past few months here in El Paso is Border Patrol leadership locally saying that their agents pulled back from a pursuit or didn’t pursue a vehicle and then just happened upon the accident further down the road,” said Shaw Drake, Staff Attorney, Policy Council for the ACLU of Texas.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection pursuit policy is public, detailing the policy agents follow when it comes to pursuits.

According to the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection Directive under Policy 2.1, “It is CBP policy that CBP Officers/Agents, may engage in and continue emergency driving, including a vehicle pursuit, only when and for as long as the Officer/Agent determines that the law enforcement benefit and need for emergency driving outweighs the immediate and potential danger created by such emergency driving.”

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.