Garza, chief of police also discussing how to best handle cases

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Both the City of Orange Grove and District Attorney Joe Frank Garza said after a special meeting on Monday night they are willing to work together to improve policing activities in Orange Grove.

The strongest example of this cooperation to come out of the meeting is the agreement by Garza to fund a new full-time police officer position for the city.

Garza said overall, it was a good informational meeting.

"There had been some concerns regarding burglaries and related crimes in Orange Grove, and I thought the best forum to address those concerns would be to meet with the city council in person, to best see what challenges they're facing," Garza said.

There were areas that Garza and new Police Chief Karl Van Slooten had been working on recently within the department.

Garza said the department is understaffed at the moment, and that according to the city, there wasn't much control of activity at night within Orange Grove.

"I had some concerns that I expressed to them, and I wanted to meet to see how we could help them," Garza said.

"The chief and I are trying to implement some new things."

Along with lack of security at night, Garza discussed with the council members the department's difficulties when it came to investigating crimes and writing reports.

"My purpose at the meeting was to make sure how they collect evidence, and know how it should be processed," Garza said.

Mayor Seale Brand said the D.A. was able to fill the need that was there. He said that now, the biggest obstacle will be to find someone to fill the new position.

"Because officers are like teachers, there is a high demand and few to go around," Brand said.

The city hasn't started the search yet, until they receive the memorandum of understanding from the district attorney's office, which is expected this week.

The agreement will call for funding a full-time officer, using money from the D.A.'s drug forfeiture fund.

Garza said the amount will be about $25,000 per year. Brand said no time limit on the agreement was discussed at the meeting.

"We also discussed how to improve crime reporting and those areas that needed to be addressed.

"He's going to send a couple of investigators over here to help us go through the evidence room, and give us some professional opinions on handling the evidence," Brand said.