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The Texas Police Association is pushing for more women to join law enforcement. This comes after many agencies across the state are dealing with a shortage in officers, including in the Rio Grande Valley.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, on average females make up 10 percent of the total number of officers at a department. It’s because of this they are looking to hire more.

Karen Hernandez is one of four female South Padre Island officers out of a fleet of 35.

“Ever since I was younger, I wanted to be in law enforcement. I wasn’t sure exactly what. I started with dispatch about five years ago,” she said.

Hernandez said there are aspects of the job that women can do that men can’t and vice versa. She said personal experience on the job has proven female officers are better at handling certain types of situations.

“Anything that has to do with females, they always feel more comfortable speaking to a female officer. I’ll give you an example, like sexual assaults. When it’s a female victim they don’t really want to talk to a male officer. They don’t feel as comfortable to tell them everything,” she said.

According to the U.S. Census, over half the population for the state of Texas is women.

With many law enforcement agencies having trouble hiring, they’re turning to women like Hernandez.

“Recently some other agencies have taken the helm on trying to put out social media blips to encourage women throughout the state to join police agencies,” South Padre Island Police Chief Randy Smith said.

Smith said having women on the team is an absolute must for a department.

“It behooves us to have females on the street because when you’re patting down another female it makes it easier. There is a liability issues to do a more thorough search for a female suspect,” he said.

Both Smith and Hernandez hope the push will bring more people to join the ranks regardless of gender.

South Padre Island currently has a few spots open for officers. They hope to fill them before summer.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to law enforcement agencies across the Valley to see their female to male ratio.

In Weslaco, out of the 75 active officers, five are female. In Harlingen they have around 130 officers with nine being female. And San Benito has four women on the force out of 36 officers.

Volunteers from all over the Rio Grande Valley took part in the 31st Adopt-A-Beach Spring Cleanup on Saturday.

South Padre Island cleanup site coordinator Elaine Sanchez said she had 458 people registered to take part in the cleanup, which started at 9 a.m.

Beach Access 3 between Palm and Corral streets was abuzz with activity as volunteers lined up at the sign-in table before the start time to pick up trash bags and data cards to document what type of trash they collected.

Ricardo Garcia, a parent who attended with three National Honor Society members from Mercedes High School, said young people need to learn to engage in community service.

“This is one of the things that will teach them about beach cleanup, the ecology and what we need to do as a community to maintain our environment,” Garcia said.

By MARICELA RODRIGUEZ Staff Photographer

The Atomic Surfers are just one surfing team ready to pop up and hang ten on the Island’s waves in this weekend’s competition.

The Atomic Surfers, led by Aarin Hartwell, the defending long board champion, will be riding the waves at this year’s 28th annual Texas Gulf Surf Association event.

Hartwell said more than 100 members between the ages of three and 70 will be competing.

Hartwell, one of the local surfers helping organize the annual event, said it is a heavily anticipated one.

“We have one of the best surf locations in the state of Texas,” Hartwell said. “The Island has the bluest water and the surf is pretty consistent down here.”

She said surfers on the Island like to say, “when the surf is good, it’s good.”

The South Texas Gulf Surf Association’s mission is to promote the sport and spirit of surfing on the Texas coast through healthy competition, while promoting good sportsmanship, supporting education, and environmental awareness.

The association holds between eight and 10 amateur events per sea-son that are healthy, family oriented and fun.

“People can sign up to compete in the morning, and registration starts at 7 a.m.,” Hartwell said. “They are responsible for the membership fee and division registration.”

The two-day event will be held on Saturday and Sunday at Isla Blanca Park.

Hartwell said if the surf is not strong enough for competition, the Open will be rescheduled for the following weekend.

“It is fun for people to come out and watch,” Hartwell said. “Some of the best surfers in the state of Texas will all be there.”

Harwell said the surfers from around Texas will be competing for first place trophies in the South Padre Island Open.

The South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau is a sponsor of the South Padre Island Open.

“We are excited to host this competition and are very supportive of surfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and kite boarding events in South Padre Island and throughout the state,” said Keith Arnold, Director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer

Do have an old computer that doesn’t work? How about a stereo system that just is obsolete and you don’t know what to do with it?

You may want to keep Saturday morning in mind.

The city’s Environmental Health Services Department, in partnership with Keep South Padre Island Beautiful, Republic Services and RDA Technologies, are hosting an Earth Day electronic recycling event from 8 to 11 a.m. at City Hall.

According to the Earth Day Network, more than 50 million tons of electronic waste is generated each year in the United States and only 20 to 25 percent of it is recycled responsibly.

The goal is to provide safe and responsible recycling of obsolete, unused or unwanted electronics.

“This is a great opportunity to properly dispose of your electronics,” said Susan Guthrie, SPI city manager. “The community will benefit from this event to reduce waste and the negative impact that irresponsible disposal may cause.”

Guide to recycling your electronics

1. Don’t throw old electronics in the trash

Don’t put your old electronic products or batteries in the trash (even if it is legal in your state). The toxics inside these products don’t belong in the landfill.

2. Donate for reuse if possible

If your product can be reused, donate it to a reputable reuse organization, that won’t export it unless it’s fully func-tional.

3. Find a responsible recycler in your state

If your product is too old or too broken to donate you should recycle it. But many recyclers simply export your old products, dumping them on developing nations.

4. No e-Steward near you? Try the manufacturers’ free recycling programs

If there is new e-Steward near you, then you may want to use the manufacturer’s take back program, although many don’t provide much disclosure about responsible recycling. Many have voluntary take back programs, where they will recycle your old products for free. Some offer trade-in value or money back for your products.

5. Still can’t find a convenient location? Try these retailers

Staples and Best take back electronics

6. Cell phone recycling

This one is easy, because you can mail them back for free to some recyclers, including Capstone Wireless and Call2Recycle.

If You Go

WHAT: Earth Day electronic recycling event

WHERE: 4601 Padre Boulevard, SPI City Hall

WHEN: Saturday, April 22, from 8 to 11 a.m.

WHY: To safely dispose of electronic waste that is unused, obsolete or unwanted. This includes computers and televisions

Love Reggae? Love Sea Turtle Inc. or Surfvive.org?

This is the event for you. Not only can you enjoy two evenings of some of the best Reggae music on the planet, but a portion of your ticket goes to those two great local organizations.

Tonight, Friday, April 21, and tomorrow, Saturday, April 22, the Causeway Café, 5908 Padre Boulevard, will come alive with the sounds of calypso and rhythm and blues.

It’s SPI Reggae Fest with two full of days of Reggae and live street art to celebrate Earth Day and the two nonprofit organizations – Surfvive and Sea Turtle Inc.

Who’s playing?

Saltwater Slide

Sheba’s Dream

The Dabs ft. Ragnam Poyser from Jamaica

Los Rude Waves

Los Surfvivers

Ocean Breeze Avenue

Cool Under Fire

Live street artists





What is Reggae music?

Reggae is a genre first developed in Jamaica in the 1960s. While most who use the word, they reference the popular Jamaican dance music, but it more denotes a specific music style that evolved out of earlier genres like Ska and Rocksteady.

When Cameron County Health Authority’s Dr. James Castillo stood up yesterday to speak at a Zika conference on South Padre Island, there was at least one expectation in the audience he would be asked a question that would stump him.

Castillo did not miss a beat, even when asked about specific circumstances.

“Some questions were about people who wanted to purposefully get infected so that if they planned on becoming pregnant in the future, they’ve already had it, a sort of old-fashioned way about getting chicken pox,” Castillo said. “I was able to address why that would be a bad idea.”

One reason would be because of the rare but serious side effects of Zika, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease affecting the nervous system.

Another would be because the person becomes another source of transmission for the virus.

The participants were people from a variety of backgrounds — physicians, public health officials, public information officers, vector control staff and even some city officials.

“It was great to see so many people from other states and other parts of Texas to share what we learned in responding to the virus in our community,” Castillo said.

El Paso educator Lelia Onsurez shared her thoughts about the role of educators during a panel discussion on the virus.

“When it comes to adversity, schools are the first contact with a lot of parents and their children,” Onsurez said. “The problem begins with us and it ends with us.”

Onsurez was referring to educating students on how the virus can be sexually transmitted, and so by educating them on the risks, they can avoid getting the disease.

Sex education can be a touchy issue, but every Zika scenario involved needs to be discussed to prevent it, Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said.

That includes keeping up to date on the newest information about the virus.

Research is showing that in some pregnant women, the virus can continue to be present in their blood for months. Initially, it was believed that the virus would stay no longer than a few weeks.

“This really changes (the importance of) how you get the infection. Not being able to pin down when you got it is challenging,” Castillo said.

This new development has not changed recommendations for couples planning to start a family.

“I would like to see that but … what you would tell them is that they have a low risk of acquiring Zika, and there are lots of things you can do to protect from getting Zika,” Castillo said. “Zika is something you can actually manage and is very similar to taking folic acid to reduce the chance of birth defects.”

Preventative measures include avoiding travel to a high-risk area, wearing long-sleeve clothing and a mosquito repellant, and using protection during sex.

A vaccine also is in the works. Testing should be conducted soon, and although nobody can be sure it will work, researchers are optimistic, Castillo said.

This is because the Zika virus is similar to other viruses spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue and yellow fever.

At the end of the conference, Guajardo encouraged her peers to indicate in their feedback whether they would want more public health conferences.

“As a health director, I think it would be a good idea to have a conference for any public health crisis, so that we could learn from the people out in the field and examine those thoughts and experiences,” Guajardo said.