Seven months on the job, Calhoun County Sheriff George Aleman talks shop
PORT LAVACA - Sheriff George Aleman assumed his post in Calhoun County on Jan. 1.
Aleman, 60, said he likes making a difference in the town where he grew up. He enjoys fishing and playing golf but has not had time to do much of either in recent months.
Aleman sat down with the Victoria Advocate to talk about his first seven months on the job.
Are you a native of Port Lavaca?
I was born in Goliad but moved to Port Lavaca when I was 6 months old. My father was a farmer, and I attended school in Calhoun County.
What is your professional background?
I trained with the Victoria Police Academy and went to work for the Wharton Police Department as a lieutenant for about six years. I worked for the Stafford Police Department for one year before I moved back to Port Lavaca to care for my father, who was sick.
I worked for the Port Lavaca Police Department for another six years or so before I became chief of the Point Comfort Police Department. It was a four-man department with a chief and three part-time officers. During my time there, the three part-time positions became full time.
My wife and I moved to Springfield, Mo., for a while, where I was an officer for the school district. We moved back to Port Lavaca, and I went to work for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office as supervisor on patrol. I was elected sheriff last year.
What changes have you made in the department in your seven months on the job?
The biggest change is the hiring procedure. I established an interview board that also handles promotions. In the past, it has not been consistent. Chief Deputy Bryon Prall and Lt. Phoenix "Rusty" Henderson are great assets with the new department procedures. Prall is a retired Department of Public Safety supervisor with more than 35 years of experience, and Prall came with 23 years experience mostly in the sheriff's office.
Personnel changes have been made in different divisions, and we're investing in training.
We were in bad need of vehicles, which all had more than 140,000 miles on them. The county commissioners helped us purchase five new cars. We're patrolling outlying areas more.
We also purchased 25 tactical rifles for the officers with money seized during drug busts. The officers had only shotguns before, and not everyone had one.
We have also worked to build good relationships with the district attorney and the judges.
What has been going on in your county the past seven months?
There have been numerous burglaries in Port O'Connor. We have helped more than 50 residents establish a neighborhood watch program. We've made arrests and have entered others in the system. So the next time they are stopped for something, they'll be arrested. We're also helping other parts of the county start neighborhood watch programs.
We turn the narcotics officers loose, and they do a fantastic job. Their hard work has paid off. Drugs, weapons and burglary arrests are up this year from the same time last year. The team, which is composed of two sheriff's deputies and one police officer, recently seized 30 stolen weapons from a house. The arrest connected the guns to drugs and other crimes in the county. I can't provide more details at this time because the investigation is ongoing.
I work closely with Police Chief James Martinez. There have been issues between the two departments in the past, but we're unified now. The relationship is the best it has been in years. We communicate on a weekly basis.
We also work with the Victoria County Sheriff's Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to decrease crime rates.
Operation Stonegarden, a Homeland Security grant program, allows officers to better patrol highways for drugs, human smuggling and wanted criminals. The officers are paid to do nothing but patrol highways on their days off while on-duty officers take calls.
We know human and drug smugglers are coming through. State Highway 59 is a hot corridor, and State Highway 77 is busy, too.
I seized 400 pounds of marijuana on state Highway 35 in the 1990s and $62,600 in drug money during another stop.
Smugglers sometimes use highways 35 or 185 to avoid Highway 59. We know they have scouts who drive ahead of the loads to check the roads for officers.
DPS does a great job in Victoria with money and drug seizures. We have small busts here and there, like the meth bust a couple of weeks ago.
We seize the vehicles used to commit felonies and auction them off. Vehicles left behind when a suspect bails out are also confiscated and sold, as are those found abandoned. We send certified letters to the registered vehicle owners and give them ample time to claim their cars before the auction. The next auction is Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. in the department parking lot. Eight vehicles and an RV will be sold.
What goals do you have for the department?
I want to continue to clear cases, improve communication with the community and keep moving forward with training. I want to provide competitive salaries to keep our officers. We've lost some to the oil fields.
Next year, we're expecting 7,500 contractors to move into the county to build structures for Formosa and LNG. We expect them to be here at least three years, and this is a big concern. With the influx of people comes crime habits, wanted criminals and traffic issues. We'll have to ramp it up. We'll add manpower with the commissioners' help.
What do you like most about the job?
I like the challenges in this job. There are bumps in the road, but we get over them and keep going. I enjoy sharing my experience with my employees and guiding them in the right direction. I couldn't ask for a better staff. Support from the general public means a lot to me, too.