Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strife-torn town in Juárez Valley has just one officer left

The only police officer in a long and deadly stretch of border towns in the Juárez Valley is 28-year-old Erika Gándara. She works in plainclothes but keeps a semi-automatic rifle, an AR-15, hidden between cushions in her stark office. A bulletproof vest hangs near the door. A portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mexican version of the Virgin Mary, adorns one wall. These items are all Gándara has for company at the station. Eight officers constituted the police force of Guadalupe. One was shot dead the week Gándara joined the department as a dispatcher in June 2009. The other seven resigned within a year, driven out by fear, Gándara said. The last one quit in June, and no potential replacements have applied, Gándara said. "I am here out of necessity," she said. Women have increasingly become the face of police forces in rural areas outside Juárez. The territory borders a string of small Texas towns, including San Elizario, Tornillo and Fabens, and stretches all the way to Presidio...more

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