Too Soon To Tell
Some Castroville residents still cautious about new deputy.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Virginia Flores walks back to the North County Recreation Center, holding a box and a bowl of nachos smothered with cheese and jalapeños. Flores, who works at the center, says her husband was pulled over recently in Castroville and the first thing the deputy asked him is whether he was on parole.
“You are judging a book by its cover because you don’t know who he is,” she says.
She says she hopes Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Aguayo will get to know Castroville students and become a good role model for them.
Frank Almanza agrees. Almanza grew up in Castroville but recently moved to Salinas. He says that because some of his eight siblings were involved in gangs, deputies also labeled him a gang member. “To just assume everyone whose family has gang members…and put them in the same category…that’s sad,” Almanza says.
When deputies harass kids, he says, they are more likely to join gangs. “The officers need to learn how to build relationships with the community,” he says.
Joe Narvaez, after-school program director at the recreation center, says Aguayo has stopped in a couple times. “We’re getting to know him pretty well,” Narvaez says while an air hockey puck ricochets in the lobby.
Narvaez says he doesn’t think sheriff’s deputies intentionally profile residents based on race and appearance. Either way, he says, the new deputy and soon-to-open field office are good results from the complaints.
A few blocks away on Merritt Street, barber Rafael Uribe cuts a clean razor fade. The teen’s dark hair is thicker on top and tapers to a hairless bottom. Uribe, in business for 24 years, thinks there are too many deputies patrolling Castroville.
“There are more police here than in Salinas,” Uribe says firmly in heavily accented English. “They got to take care of the streets but they are overdoing it.”
He says that when deputies see kids with a razor fade they assume they are gangsters. “But they’re not,” Uribe says, gesturing with his scissors and clippers.
Uribe says deputies should stop harassing his customers, adding that gang members cut their own hair. “The gangsters. They don’t pay for haircuts.”
Across the street, Eduardo Marquez looks over shiny Indian-head pennies laminated in a plastic binder. Marquez owns Alfa Coins & Currency. He says deputies always have been polite to him. But he says he often sees them pull over farmworkers. “They think they don’t have a driver’s license or something,” Marquez says, “but they are shocked because many of them do.”
At Mike’s Place, bartender Dave Padilla says he gets along well with local law enforcement. “I think they are doing a great job,” Padilla says in between opening Bud Lights for customers trickling in after work on a recent Friday.
Mike’s Bar customer and handyman Jay Welch doesn’t doubt that deputies profile drivers, saying all people do it, whether its hiring someone or making a traffic stop. “Everybody profiles,” Welch says. “(Deputies are) supposed to profile. They got their life out on the line.”