Dulce Garcia Huizar wants to save the world from criminals.
The Selma High senior is eyeing a career in law enforcement after spending much of her youth watching television cop shows.
“I grew up watching ‘Criminal Minds,’” she said. “It caught my attention. I read books [delving] into the minds of serial killers.
“I want to be able to catch those people.”
Huizar is planning to major in criminology and psychology in college. But first, she is receiving an education in policing through the Explorer program sponsored by the Selma Police Department.
When the Explorer program was restarted two years ago, the 18-year-old Huizar passed the tests with the highest score. So she is Captain, the Explorers’ highest rank.
“She is a really sharp gal,” said Selma police Sgt. Terry Reid. “She’s going to go far.”
Huizar was one of a couple dozen police department volunteers — adult VIPs (Volunteers in Policing) and teen-aged Explorers —who were honored for their service at last week’s Selma City Council meeting. There are 44 volunteers who assist the department, matching the authorized 44-person staff of sworn officers, dispatchers, community assistance officers and a property/evidence technician.
Explorers get a taste of law enforcement, including police and fire ride-alongs and learning the alpha codes used by law enforcement.
Huizar and her peers are an example of Selma’s commitment to growing its own public safety program. That commitment is being touted by both Police Chief Greg Garner and Mayor Jim Avalos.
In his first month as mayor, Avalos has set his sights on improving Selma’s public safety. He understands the need to assuage citizens fears after several shootings in the past year.
Garner’s statistics show that in 2017 Selma’s overall crime rate went down 18 percent from 2016, including a 42 percent drop in violent crime, 45 percent drop in rapes, 50 percent drop in robbery and 59 percent drop in aggravated assault.
However, the rate of homicides rose from one in 2016 to three in 2017.
And nothing gets a small town riled up like a growing homicide rate.
So Avalos is working to fast-track the hiring of four officers to replenish the force, as well as filling dispatch and records vacancies.
Garner reported last week that four sworn officer applicants were in various stages of the hiring process.
Their addition would bring the police force back to it’s currently authorized 32 fully-sworn officers, 26 of which would be on patrol.
That’s the first step, the quick fix to let the public know something is being done, that City Hall recognizes public safety is the biggest issue in town.
But there are longer-term fixes that need to happen. Councilmen Scott Robertson and Louis Franco said they hoped the City could add even more cops, and be able to keep them. (Garner said the number of policemen is down from 2009 when Selma had 39 sworn officers.)
And turnover has been a problem as officers leave for other jobs.
Hiring and keeping policemen requires competitive salaries and support from management, City officials and the public.
That can take some extra cash, so the Council has some work to do in the budgeting process.
“We’re going to prioritize what the residents want right now,” Avalos said last week. “They don’t feel safe. They want more cops. And they want the city to be cleaned up, be more beautified.”
Longer-term, the City needs the extra income that will come from residential and commercial projects being planned for Selma.
As for keeping its cops on the force, Avalos and Garner hope the “homegrown” idea takes root. Avalos envisions a future in which the City could help its Explorers with their education, including their police academy training, to build loyalty should they decide Selma is the place to work long-term.
Garner said later this month he will discuss with Selma school district officials the possibility of a course in administration of justice at Selma High.
That would come too late for Dulce Huizar, who expects to begin her college career in the fall.
But, who knows, maybe someday she can be a profiler like the gang on “Criminal Minds.” Or a “CSI”-styled forensics officer.
Or, possibly, a Selma policewoman. That would make a chief and Mayor happy.
It’s called growing your own.