10-20-2010, 08:04 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
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Local Time: 03:52 PM
20 year old female student becomes Police Chief- no one else would take the job.
Marisol Valles is just 20 years old, mother of a baby son and still a student, but she is also the newest chief of police in a drug-plagued region of northern Mexico.
"She was the only person to accept the position," said the mayor's office in Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, amid the daily threat of violence here which has claimed the lives of police officers and a former mayor.
But Valles, who is studying criminology in nearby Ciudad Juarez -- Mexico's most violent city -- said she was determined not to be intimidated.
"We're all afraid in Mexico now. We can't let fear beat us," Valles told AFP, wearing glasses and holding an exercise book after her swearing in on Wednesday.
The unassuming criminology student took up the post of police chief in a municipality of some 10,000 near the US border because no one else wanted it.
Chihuahua state has borne the brunt of Mexico's spiraling drug-related violence that has left more than 28,000 dead in the last four years.
Last week there were at least eight murders in Praxedis. The former mayor was killed in June. And police officers have also been targeted.
Valles officially took on her new post in front of the 19 police officers, including nine recently recruited women, who will be her team.
"I took the risk because I want my son to live in a different community to the one we have today. I want people to be able to go out without fear, as it was before," Valles said.
More than 2,500 people have been killed this year in the Juarez valley region, where the town lies, and the area is deemed a high-traffic transit point for illegal drugs, as well as migrants, into the US state of Texas.
With scant resources, Valles said her job will not be to fight drug trafficking because that responsibility falls on soldiers and federal police.
Instead, she will focus on rehabilitating public spaces and improving relationships between neighbors in order to improve general security.
"Praxedis was different in the time of its oldest residents -- people walked the streets at night, they knew each other, they talked and met up," she said.
On her first day at work, Valles was out on the beat visiting schools and residents.
"I've been well received and I know people will help me to work on solutions for security problems," she said.
Thousands of towns and villages across Mexico are policed by small, underpaid and under-armed forces, who are notoriously corrupt and often work with drug traffickers.
President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on the country's powerful drug gangs, involving some 50,000 troops, when he took office in 2007.
He has also sought to clean up the police with a series of purges and stricter training, and is seeking to bring some 2,500 municipalities under the control of state governments, which are considered to be less corrupt.
Valles said she took a month to decide whether to accept her new post, after consulting with her family.
"Young people need to engage with their communities," she said.
Marisol Valles Garcia Named Police Chief of Guadalupe in Mexico | ThirdAge