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Marisol Valles Garcia, 20, is First Female Police Chief in Violent Mexican Border Area

Criminology Student Marisol Valles Garcia Named Police Chief of Violent  Mexican Town
Marisol Valles Garcia (AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz)

PRAXEDIS G. GUERRERO, Mexico (CBS/AP) In one of the most violent communities along Mexico's drug-ridden border, a new police chief has stepped up to the plate: a 20-year-old woman who has not yet finished her criminology degree.

Marisol Valles Garcia was sworn in Wednesday and hopes to bring order to a  township of 8,500 in the border state of Chihuahua, which used to a quiet farming community before two rival gangs began fighting for control of its single highway, a lucrative drug trafficking route along the Texas border.

Garcia is up against drug gangs notorious for killing public officials and terrorizing its citizens.

Her predecessor was gunned down in July 2009 and the town had been unable to find a replacement for more than a year.

Of course, Garcia admits, there is a considerable amount of fear that has come with her new title, but the young, energetic and possibly naive woman believes her special brand of community policing which arms itself with principles and values and focuses on prevention will slowly heal the community from the inside out.

"My people are out there going door to door, looking for criminals, and (in homes) where there are none, trying to teach values to the families," she said in her first official appearance on Wednesday. "The project is ... simple, based on values, principles and crime prevention in contacts house-by-house."

Garcia, who has two bodyguards, will not carry any weapons and wants to hire more women in addition to the three already on her staff of 13 officers. She also wants these officers to be unarmed in order to assume a non-violent role.

Although Garcia claims she welcomed her new role, there are many people who are not as enthused about having a woman - especially a non-violent one - at the helm of the war on drugs.

Miguel Sarre, a professor who specializes in Mexican law enforcement at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico hopes her decision "is not a reckless act on her part...a municipal police force cannot protect itself against such powerful forces."

Other citizens who claim the lawlessness cannot get much worse are willing to give her new approach a shot.

"It is not likely things will change from one day to the next," says Arturo Gomez, a local resident and farmer, "but let's see what a woman can do..."

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