A Tale of Two Cities
By Kimberly Sevcik
But for all the striving, South Alamo has deep problems. Only 17 percent of residents have graduated high school, and jobs are hard to come by. At night, gunshots echo through the neighborhood and battered cars cruise the streets. Last year, there were 1164 thefts in the area, making it one of the more crime-ridden regions in Texas. Local drug dealers infiltrate family blocks--next to one woman's home, a pink concrete house reputedly served as a squatters' den for years. Neighbors believe the dealers raped three girls there. But no one dared rat them out for fear of the repercussions.
In 2005, Lupe TreviÃ±o rolled into town as the county's new sheriff. Treviao was determined to clean up the neighborhood. He set up a mobile police unit where residents could drop by to have a cup of coffee with deputies and share whatever was on their mind--baseball, the birth of a new baby, the state of crime in their neighborhood. "We told the folks in South Alamo, 'You have to be our eyes,'" TreviÃ±o says. "Once we established trust in the community, residents began sharing information about drug dealers with us, and we made several arrests."
Even as the area grows safer, many women are already dreaming of moving out and up. Still, some feel wistful about the idea of leaving. "We help one another here," says Sanchez. "We treat each other like part of the family. How could a bigger house at a fancier address replace that?"