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Student project shines light on a neighborhood often victimized after dark

By Guerrero Garcia

EL PASO – She slept comfortably inside her apartment in the Maxwood neighborhood in east El Paso not knowing that her car was broken into under the cover of the night’s darkness and that her laptop computer had been stolen.

Itzel Duran, a junior psychology student at the University of Texas at El Paso, was yet another victim of burglary in that part of town. “It is not the worst part of the city,” said Duran, “but the lack of lighting gives an opportunity to delinquents of vandalism and theft.”

That community at the intersection of Maxwood and Chaswood does not have adequate street lighting and many of the residents have been victims of some type of crime. The residents were unaware that a process existed that they could follow as a community in order to obtain streetlights.

As part of a societal issue research project, Duran addressed the issue of inadequate street lighting in her neighborhood and together with her research partners Irasema Cuellar and Sarai Bibriescas managed to obtain the proper lighting for the community by educating the neighbors about the city’s procedures.

“We all agreed there was an extreme need for street lighting in the neighborhood and we wanted to address the issue,” said Cuellar. “The initial goal is to create awareness in the neighborhood.”

UTEP students Sarai Bibriescas and Irasema Cuellar, survey neighbors opinions on the need of street lights. (Guerrero García/
The students went out to the community to interview residents and learn first hand about their experiences.

A survey conducted by the students showed that all neighbors felt there was not enough street lighting. All the neighbors agreed that the lack of lighting had affected their home security and considered their street to be the frequent target of vandalism and frequent scene accidents.

According to interviews by the students, a resident of the area for over 40 years, Francis Aguilera, feels the lack of lighting is the main reason for thefts and vandalism in her own home. “We’ve had items taken from our back yard numerous times, and even had our windows broken,” she said.

The students went to the Pebble Hills Police Station to seek information about the crimes. In an interview with Crime Analyst Officer Isaac Mendez, the students learned that in recent years the Maxwood and Chaswood community had witnessed an increase in crime.

“There have been reports in the past not only of burglary but of destroyed property, abandoned narcotics and class C assault charges,” said Cuellar. The dark streets become ideal for juveniles to park their car and part-take in criminal activity.

The survey also revealed that the majority of the residents were not aware of the process to request the installation of streetlights. The students went door-to-door informing the residents about the streetlight petition and on what actions to take…

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