Cameron Co. DA Opens Office on College Campus to Help Student Victims
BROWNSVILLE – The Cameron County District Attorney's office is helping young crime victims step out of the shadows.
Students at Texas Southmost College can now report crimes to a DA's office, located inside the Camille Lightner Building, without leaving campus.
Director Liliana Mendes said they want to make things easier for student victims to reach out for help.
Last year, out of the nearly 1,500 victims that the county dealt with, only 203 were young people between 18 to 25 years old.
"None of us want to think that we're going through something like this. One could be the embarrassment, two, they might not know where to go," Mendes said. "Some students have had the privilege of never having to go through the system before."
Mendes said there are certain crimes that are on the rise amongst this age group.
"We see a lot of stalking, dating violence," she said. "We see a lot of criminal mischief also – boyfriend doesn't want to be with the girlfriend anymore, girlfriend goes crazy, slashes tires – all of that we can provide services to."
TSC Student Cristina Rivas said she's never been a victim of a crime but is aware they happen on campus.
"Last time there was someone taking pictures in the parking lot of just girls in their cars," Rivas said.
She said she’s glad to know students won't have to go far for help if they need it.
"Some people are kind of embarrassed to go say, 'Well, this happened to me.’ So, I guess it's a matter of making people feel comfortable," she said. "If they don't feel comfortable, they're just going to blow it off and just hope it doesn't happen next time."
Student Jose Salazar believes that's what this office will provide for him and his fellow classmates.
"Likely, persons are going to come up to that place, so when they don't feel secure, like if someone is stalking them, they're likely to get advice from there or just report them, and I think it's good," Salazar said.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said the stigma keeps many victims away.
He hopes being more proactive will be a powerful teaching tool to reduce the number of crimes altogether.
"We have to take a step back and come into the community where the young people that are being involved as victims and defendants are," Saenz said, "and talk and reach them and hopefully prevent them from becoming a victim or even a defendant."
All services provided at the office are confidential.
Students are encouraged to visit the office at the Camille Lightner Building Office 100 P. An advocate will be in the office Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
This is the first office of its kind in the Valley, DA Saenz said. If it succeeds here, he said, the next step is to look for other campuses to set up shop.