My house was burglarized when I was around eight years old. I have never felt so vulnerable. Someone was touching my personal things, trashing our house as if they were looking for something valuable. As a kid I was trying to make sense why someone who lives five minutes from the Mexican border, in a small house facing an alleyway, would think we had anything valuable.
I was 16, had a job to pay for my first car, car insurance and gas. I was independent. I drove myself to school and work- learning the responsibilities of adulthood. One day, my car was stolen out of my parent's driveway. Although they found my car, the police department only wrote a report. Growing up on cop shows (Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues and others), I knew my car could have been processed for fingerprints. When I asked the cop about printing the car he said, "it was just a stolen car". Pissed off and determined, it was at that point when I changed my major from chemistry to administrative of justice. I never looked back.
I put myself through school (Grossmont Community College) and got an AS in Evidence Technology (now called Administration of Justice). I immediately fell in love with fingerprints. I didn't have to be a sworn officer, I didn't have to deal with the public, and I can do my part helping law enforcement and the community be a little safer.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 pushed me to a new level in my fingerprint career. I desperately wanted to help identify the fallen victims in 9/11. I was told I couldn't help because I was not certified by the International Association for Identification organization (IAI). Determined, I achieved my fingerprint certification.
Thirty years later, my car was stolen out of my driveway (again). Only this time I had a different perspective from that 16 years old high school girl. I was married, two kids and had a successful fingerprint career. I knew the routine, a 180 form is on a fax machine with my car's demographics, I expect only a report to be taken. I was wasn't mad. See- I had the luxury of jumping into my husband's car to take the kids to school and go to work. I was dreaming of what my car would be. My kids on the other hand had a completely different perspective that changed me and my way of approaching my cases forever.
My kid's bedroom windows faced the driveway where my stolen car was parked. My kids were scared knowing a bad person was so close to them while they were sleeping. I hadn't thought of a child's perspective. What if this had happened to a single mother. A car is everything- taking the kids to school, going to work and running daily errands.
My car was found, but the police officer just wrote a report. I asked if they were going to process the car for prints. The officer said, "It's just a stolen car". I immediately called his supervisor and said either your agency processes my car OR I will. They processed the car for prints. But again, the officer's perspective, it was just an old car, a piece of property, insignificant. I know and have seen stolen cars lead to other criminal activity.
I love what I do for the communities I serve, the victims I help and the forensic discipline I practice.
I will continue my forensic practice, until my eyeballs fall out.