Fall gun buyback in El Paso deemed convenient step toward safer community

Cars lined up at Ascarate Park and El Pasoans handed in firearms ranging from non-functioning pieces, to handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault rifles during the county’s gun buyback initiative. During four hours on Saturday in October El Paso Sheriff’s deputies collected 491 firearms. Each person was allowed to turn in a maximum of 10 guns so long as they owned the weapons. In exchange they received a gift certificate of a minimum of $50 for weapons that no longer worked, $100 for handguns, $150 for rifles and shotguns, up to a maximum of $200 for semi-automatic assault rifles. Ammunition was also accepted but without a reward. “The idea with this program is to make it safe, easy, convenient, and to incentivize people that do not want their weapons, to come forward and anonymously turn them in,” Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso county attorney said.

How police work for women in El Paso has changed over the years, but still has a ways to go in recruiting

The history of women on El Paso’s police force dates back to 1913, but much has changed over the years. “Women were seen more as social workers than police officers because it was a very male-dominated occupation,” said Egbert Zavala, an associate professor in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Texas at El Paso. Early police work by women mostly involved looking for runaway girls, making calls on community residents, patrolling the streets and arresting prostitutes. “There was this idea, back in the day, that males had to deal with dangerous criminals,” Zavala said. https://youtu.be/EOnjuEVQzH4

According to records with the El Paso County Historical Society, the first policewomen in El Paso appointed in 1913 were Mrs. C.A. Hooper, Mrs. L.P. Jones, and Juliet Barlow.

Desert drivers come to their own rescue in El Paso’s off-road community

The sounds of off-road vehicles grinding through the desert in east El Paso County are mostly just a memory now. The sprawling dunes area known as Red Sands is closed and Sheriff’s patrols are turning off-road enthusiasts away to limit the potential for public contact over coronavirus concerns. But, before the closure, the sounds of 4x4s filled Red Sands day and night as groups of vehicles roamed the rugged terrain, climbing over dunes and sometimes getting stuck in the soft sands. That’s when the Texas Rescue Patrol might come to the rescue. The Texas Rescue Patrol is a group of volunteers who are part of the off-roading community who respond to calls for help and try to do whatever they can for stranded vehicles or accident cases, especially in the hard-to-reach areas of the desert.

Retired Marine turned survival instructor teaches El Pasoans to depend on themselves

How long would you last if you didn’t have easy access to food, water and electricity? Retired Marine Alfred Legler knows many city dwellers aren’t prepared for when a disaster may strike. That’s why he began teaching classes to help El Pasoans learn basic survival skills. “A lot of people have never been out of the city. They don’t know how to hunt, they don’t know how to fish, they can’t look down on the ground and identify what kind of plant is edible, what kind of plant might have some medicinal use.

Community Cats: How El Pasoans are using TNR to live alongside feral cats

Three years after the City of El Paso switched from its policy of euthanizing feral cats to instead supporting a trap-neuter-return program, El Pasoans are finding ways to coexist with community cats. Community cats, or feral cats, are ownerless cats that live outdoors. They make their homes, often in small colonies, in neighborhoods. While some can be friendly towards people, most are not socialized and cannot be adopted. “The cats are our neighbors, we just have to learn to live with them,” said Patti Hack, director of the Cats Spay/Neuter program at the Humane Society of El Paso.

Highway safety agency with dubious record in public information lawsuits ramps up denials

By Eli Wolfe, FairWarning

After a Florida driver was killed in a crash in 2016 while his Tesla was in “Autopilot” mode,  regulators assured the public that Tesla’s autonomous driving system was safe. An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that after a key component called Autosteer was added, crash rates in Tesla cars had dropped. When a skeptical researcher filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the data behind the claim, NHTSA balked. He successfully sued the agency — extending NHTSA’s poor record in defending FOIA cases. NHTSA, a branch of the Department of Transportation, did not respond to interview requests nor answer written questions for this story.

Roadkill hazards go beyond initial impact

Roadkill is not an uncommon sight along the rural roads and highways of the borderland. Yet, many people may not be aware of the hazards animal-vehicle collisions can cause. Lois Balin, an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Urban Wildlife Program helps the El Paso community with professional planning guidance, management recommendations and research associated with wildlife. She said animal and vehicle encounters are not only traffic hazards, but can also pose health problems for a community. “After a certain amount of time they are going to be filled with maggots and hopefully nobody is collecting these animals to eat,” Balin said.

El Paso working hard to reach no-kill shelter status by 2020

The City of El Paso has implemented multiple measures to address growing citizen concerns about the welfare of animals within the city. These measures include turning the El Paso Animal Shelter into a no-kill facility by 2020, encouraging more animal adoptions and increasing the number of volunteers working at the El Paso Animal Shelter. El Paso residents have frequently voiced concerns about the commitment of the city government to properly care for abandoned or neglected animals. In 2013, the city had a live release rate for shelter animals of roughly 26 percent, meaning that three-quarters of shelter animals were being euthanized. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that anywhere from five to seven million animals are euthanized every year in shelters nationwide, while only 10 to 20 percent of families adopt their animals from shelters.

There’s no home for the holidays for deployed border agent family

On Nov. 13, nine buses carrying the first large wave of about 350 asylum seekers from the Central American migrant caravan arrived in Tijuana. Michelle Arandas’ mother and stepfather are both Customs and Border Protection agents assigned to the El Paso ports of entry. However, on Nov. 15, Aranda had to drop them off at the airport, where they joined other El Paso CBP officers in boarding a plane to Nogales, Ariz.

El Paso e-sports scene adjusts to new reality after shooting at Florida tournament

Repercussions from a deadly shooting in August at a Madden 2018 tournament in Jacksonville devastated the gaming community and repercussions are being felt across the nation and in the Sun City. After a gamer opened fire at the Jacksonville tournament and killed three, including himself, both gamers and tournament organizers were suddenly struck by a harsh reality: the safety and well-being of attendees is not something that can be taken for granted. Gamers have been coming together to compete against one another since the very first video games allowed head-to-head competition. What was once a hobby for enthusiasts at arcades to prove their dominance has turned into a multimillion-dollar industry, with major sponsors and dedicated E-Sports teams coming together to compete in high-stakes tournaments. To most of these gamers, whether it is a small local meet-up every weekend or a tournament in Las Vegas attended by 300,000 people, competitions are a haven where you escape from reality to practice your hobby.

Wise Latina summit showcases services available to women after leaving abusive relationships

Several El Paso women’s groups are helping victims of domestic abuse by providing them with resources to resume a healthy, productive lives after leaving abusive relationships, speakers at a recent conference said. Among the services provided for domestic violence victims are rental assistance, replacement of damaged property, medical bills, counseling, and protective orders from the County Attorney’s Office are available for victims of violent crimes, but shelter is the most need resource, said Jessica Ugarte, a certified crime victim compensation services provider. “They’re used to receiving financial support from their abuser, so when they leave they’re not sure where they can go or how can they support themselves,” Ugarte said during the annual summit called “Enough is Enough. Ya Basta” on Oct. 6 at the El Paso Community College.

If stricter gun laws aren’t widely adopted, some say children need gun safety courses in school

In the past five years, four of the five largest mass shootings in the American history have taken place – 58 people dead in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting; 49 killed at an Orlando nightclub shooting; 20 children and six adults killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and 25 people gunned down in Sutherland Springs, TX. We’re only five months into 2018 and there have already been 79 recorded shootings in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In addition, as of May 1 196 children age 11 and younger were killed or injured by guns. With 42 percent of U.S. residents living in households containing guns, some gun advocates believe it’s time to bring gun safety education to the schools. Firearm safety classes in grade schools aren’t unprecedented.

El Paso students uneasy after campus shootings nationwide

Students, teachers and family members are concerned for their safety after several school campus shootings during the past few years, including a campus shooting in Texas that killed 10 and another in Florida that killed nearly 20 people. Ten people were killed in a high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18. In February, in Parkland, Florida, 17 people – students and teachers – were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Another 17 people suffered injuries when they were shot with a variety of weapons in the Feb. 14 shooting.

EPFD provides free smoke alarms

One week after a woman lost her life in a house fire on Caballo Lake Drive in East El Paso in March,firefighters were knocking on doors in the neighborhood. A crew of representatives from El Paso Fire Department’s Community Risk Reduction Division dropped off flyers and pamphlets detailing fire safety tips, as well as information regarding the city’s smoke alarm program. “Smoke alarms are a tool and they play a big part in that they are a first-line of defense to alarm residents that something is happening in the home, especially when they’re asleep,” said Lt. James Schaerfl with the Community Risk Reduction section of EPFD. The effort was part of a program called Return to the Scene, where firefighters return to residential areas after a fire to raise awareness on prevention and safety measures. They offer to perform inspections of homes and install smoke alarms.

“The best smoke alarms in the world don’t put out any fires, so we want no fires to take place in the first place, which is why prevention is always first,” Schaerfl said.

TimesUp and MeToo movements encourage dialogue on UTEP campus

In recent months, national news has reported on multiple cases of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior toward women by famous men in a variety of professions, from Hollywood to sports, the political arena, and even the news media. At the same time, little has been published about the #MeToo movement in academia. But campus crime statistics shed light on the existence of sexual assault on students, primarily women.A 2017 survey by the University of Texas System shows that around 20 percent of students have reported sexual assault incidents and 7 percent of those incidents reported by students were rape-related.The UT study, Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments survey, was released as the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements were gathering steam across the country.The survey also showed results from UT Austin which revealed that in 2016, 28 percent of undergraduate women had been victims of unwanted sexual touching, 12 percent had experienced an attempted rape, and 15 percent had been raped. According to UTEP’s CLERY statistics report released Oct.1, 2017 and included in the UT survey, in 2016 UTEP had the highest number of reported rapes in three years, with three occurring in on-campus property and two in student housing. There was one rape reported on campus in 2015, and none reported for 2014.UTEP has responded in its own way to the national conversation about sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior with their own take on the #TimesUp movement by creating a gallery in honor of the movement.Dr. Guillermina Núñez, the director of the Women’s Studies Department at UTEP and a professor of sociology for 13 years, says that she has personally learned of the stories of some students severely affected in their personal and academic lives because of previous experiences of sexual assault.”When people have been sexually assaulted there is usually a lot of shame, fear, and stigma about these interactions,” Núñez said.The Golden Globes ceremony in January in which prominent actresses like Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon publicly supported the Time’s Up movement, motivated UTEP’s Coordinator of Campus Engagement Activities Mallory Garcia to increase awareness of the issue through a campus-wide activity, a reception at the Union Gallery in late January that supported the Time’s Up movement.”We wanted to provide a platform and an opportunity for the students here at UTEP to kind of bring Time’s Up to UTEP and figure out what it could look like here on campus, what conversations can we have, what actions can we take, what can we do here to make Time’s Up a local thing and not just something that we see on TV,” Garcia said during the #TimesUP event on campus.The reception showcased a wall that would let visitors write what they thought about the movement and what would be the next step for the university.”I want to show support to all the women who are not afraid to tell men to stop harassing and hurting them,” was one comment printed on the gallery’s wall.More solidarity with #TimesUP is on the drawing board during April Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Student Engagement and Leadership Center is one of several campus departments in charge of planning events for the last week of this month.A Resource Fair is planned for the students on April 25 as well as the annual Denim Day Fashion Show.

Old fire station converted to welcome center to teach fire safety

The El Paso Fire Department has created an educational and welcoming environment through their Safety and Health Outreach Center, SHOC for short. The SHOC is located in the Central part of town, at 5415 Trowbridge Drive. First established in 1953 as Fire Station No. 13, The building was an active fire station for over 60 years until 2014 when the station ceased operations and merged with the newly built Fire Station No. 5 at 400 Revere St.

Skipping out on bar, restaurant tabs hurts more than people realize, service workers say

A January episode of Live PD in El Paso captured an issue that bars and restaurants wish people knew more about. “I paid one tab he was supposed to pay the other tab. The guy in the dreads was supposed to pay the other tab.” the man told El Paso Police Officer Melendez in the video. “So you kept drinking, thinking they were going to pay,” Melendez asked, as the man was being arrested. It turns out when you least expect it, someone will walk out on their bill, said Sabrina Medina, a bartender at Beach Bar, 6920 Delta.

Marijuana use, litter problems spike at scenic mountain spots

EL PASO – The Franklin Mountains feature some of the Borderland’s most prominent scenic areas. With great views overlooking El Paso’s valleys, Downtown and Juarez, Mexico, it is a popular destination for El Pasoans and travelers alike. Runners and cyclists share the road with residents and tourists along the Rim Road route to Scenic Drive, where you can stand in one spot and see three states and two nations. Families and friends stroll through Tom Lea Park. There, an obelisk marks the southernmost point of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S.

But not everyone appreciates the view and moves on.

Fast and subtle, police using partially marked cars to target aggressive drivers

EL PASO – Roadside signs might declare friendly driving is the Texas way, but not everyone seems to get the message. That’s why the El Paso Police Department has been using partially marked vehicles to track down aggressive drivers, said Robert Gomez, public information officer for EPPD. Aggressive driving includes speeding, changing lanes without signaling and tailgating another vehicle. “The officers who are assigned to these vehicles are required to take training on what to look out for when they’re out there,” Gomez said. EPPD began introducing the cars, then known as “road rage” vehicles, to their fleet of traffic vehicles in 2004 as part of a pilot program.

El Paso domestic violence shelter sees increased demand for services

EL PASO – Domestic violence reports are on the rise in Texas, which may be a sign that community education efforts are helping more victims to speak up. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 2015 Texas Crime Report family violence incidents rose 4.9 percent in 2015. There were 194,872 reported incidents in 2015 compared to 185,817 in 2014. Figures for 2016 were not available in time for this article. Public safety agencies reported 5,382 incidents of domestic violence in El Paso county in 2015.

Sexual assault awareness project at UTEP encourages people to speak up

EL PASO – Organizers of a violence awareness project showcased throughout the UTEP campus this semester hope that students and visitors learn everyone is vulnerable to sexual assault and that everyone has a responsibility to hold people accountable. Hundreds of T-shirts emblazoned by art and anti violence messages were displayed at various busy locations on campus as part of the Clothesline Project launched in April for Sexual Assault Awareness month. According to the 2016 University of Texas at El Paso Annual Security and Fire Safety report, known as the Clery report, there were there were several incidents of sexual assault related offenses on campus from 2013-2015. During this three year period, there were four total reports of rape or forcible sex ofenses that occured in student housing – one rape was reported in 2015 and three forcible sex offenses were reported in 2013. The Clery report also states that there was one incident reported of fondling inside campus property in 2015, and an incident of fondling inside a student housing facility in 2014.

Scholarships help El Paso survivors of domestic abuse to further their education

EL PASO – Inside a small dark rectangular room inside a shelter for victims of domestic violence blocks from the border highway, a brown-haired woman in black slacks and black flats recently sat tensely on a couch next to a certificate and a single white rose. The woman, a single mother pursuing a college degree, had just received a $1000 award from the El Paso County Attorney’s Office toward completing her higher education. Speaking in a halting tone, she explained to the roomful of reporters that receiving the scholarship award was a “beautiful feeling” because “it gives me an opportunity to not stress about financially finding a way to continue my education. It allows me to look at what… I received and evaluate what I’ve gone through in my life and know that I am a survivor.”

The woman was one of six scholarship winners during a scholarship award ceremony held by the EL Paso County Attorney’s Office for survivors of domestic violence.

Preparation is the key to hiking the Franklin Mountains

Hiking the mountains and trails in El Paso are an appealing attraction to residents and tourists alike, but it is not just a simple stroll up and down. There are many ways that novice hikers in the Franklin Mountains might end up in need of rescue, such as losing the trail, not being able to find a way down after dark, or even a potential medical emergency. Losing the trail is a very common occurance, due to individuals not paying attention to the trail, or venturing to explore beyond established trails and not being able to find their way back. Also, hikers need to make sure that they plan the duration of their hike accordingly. You need to plan for your hike up, rest time, as well as hike down.

El Paso Animal Services shows sharp decline in euthanasia rates

Dogs and cats are locked in small enclosures, expressing confusion and fright. They look out a thick layer of glass, presumably hoping a passerby will take them to a new home. For most, their fate was to go into a room and receive an injection and everything goes black. That was the prognosis for some 75 percent of the animals impounded at El Paso Animal Services in 2012. More than 25,000 of the 33,000 animals impounded that year were were euthanized, according to shelter documents.

Resumption of drug war affects Juarez nightclubs, bars and other businesses

Drug-related violence in Juarez has begun to spike again, raising concerns among nightclub owners and business leaders that patrons are staying home for fear of a return to the high levels of violence that plagued the city and peaked in 2010, some bar owners said. Nearly 50 people were killed in January all related to drug violence, said Alejandro Ruvalcaba Valadez, a spokesman from the FGE, Fiscalia General del Estado in Spanish or the Ciudad Juarez Attorney General’s Office, in English. The violence began to rise last fall, Valdez said, when 120 people were killed during September and October. During that period, the number of homicides averaged between 30-40 victims per month, or about 29 deaths per every 100,000 Juarez residents. “Since the year started until the end of January weekend sales and the number of customers has decreased,” said Don Chuy, a bartender at Club 15, on Avenida Benito Juarez, in downtown Juarez.

Juarez mothers of crime victims embroider their stories of injustice

EL PASO – More than a decade has passed since pink crosses began to appear in the streets of Ciudad Juárez. And even though it seems to be a problem of the past for many, the mothers of women who disappeared or were found dead continue to seek justice for  their daughters.  Around 1996, Ciudad Juárez became internationally notorious after the murders of hundreds of young women, some as young as 12 years old. Many had been raped, strangled and mutilated. Their bodies were found in vacant lots and many of the cases are still open and unresolved.

Madres de víctimas de violenciacosen la herida abierta

Mas de una década ha pasado desde que cruces color rosa aparecieran en las calles de Ciudad Juárez, y aunque parece ser un tema olvidado para muchos, las madres de las víctimas siguen en la búsqueda de justicia por la desaparición y muerte de sus hijas. Ciudad Juárez fue colocada en el ojo del mundo después de que cientos de jóvenes mujeres entre 12 y 18 años fueran violadas, estranguladas, y mutiladas empezando desde el año 1996. Sus cuerpos eran encontrados en lotes baldíos y muchos de estos casos siguen abiertos y sin resolver. “Lo que esta pasando aquí en Ciudad Juárez no es una historia ni una leyenda; es una realidad que estamos viviendo las madres de familia aquí y que ya no queremos que pase,” compartió Susana Montes Ruiz. María Guadalupe Pérez Montes, hija de Susana Montes Ruiz, joven de tan solo 17 años de edad, desapareció el 31 de Enero del 2009, en el centro de Ciudad Juárez cuando se encontraba realizando la compra de unos zapatos.

El Paso’s 24-hour contact initiative for victims of domestic violence initiative crosses borders as a national model

El Paso’s homegrown program to help victims of domestic violence, The 24-hour Contact Initiative, has acquired a statewide and national reputation as one of the most effective in the country. It’s been lauded by Vice President Joe Biden in a 2014 national report on violence against women, has been adopted by other Texas counties as a model for their domestic violence programs and even sparked a University of Texas at Austin extensive research study where participants had this to say about the initiative:

“Family violence is is no longer a joke in El Paso County,” one participant said. “It’s become a respectable complaint, like a civil right,” said another. The program run out of the El Paso District Attorney’s Office reaches out to victims of domestic violence in less than 24 hours after an arrest has been reported to police. The main purpose of the 24-hours contact initiative is to provide an immediate safe environment for victims and provide them information about free services that they can tap into.

Periodistas amenazados frecuentemente en Veracruz

Desde la ocasión en la que paso dos días en la sierra con un grupo de autodefensas indígenas, hasta cuando entrevistó a un joven completamente drogado que ahorcó y destripó a su novia para luego dormir con ella, Sergio Aldazaba ha tenido que cubrir historias que no cualquier periodista ha tenido la oportunidad de vivir. “Cada caso te va marcando y si sabes sacar lo mejor de cada situación, te ayuda a crecer como periodista y como ser humano”, dijo el periodista veracruzano en una reciente entrevista. Aldazaba, de 28 años, se gana la vida escribiendo sobre la nota roja y política para periódicos y sitios en linea. Al estar cubriendo temas tan sensibles en el estado de Veracruz, el joven periodista dice que está en constante peligro de un atentado contra su vida. “Se los riesgos que todo esto conlleva, pero alguien tiene que hacer el trabajo sucio y hasta cierto punto te puedo decir que se vuelve un tanto adictivo cubrir todo este tipo de historias”

A pesar de esto, nada lo preparó para cubrir la muerte de tres compañeros periodistas a causa de la corrupción del sistema de gobierno en Mexico.