A Robstown man from a family of public servants is among the five candidates running for the Democratic nomination for Precinct 5 constable.
"I've been in law enforcement for 12 years and this is something I want to continue," said Gerardo "Gerald" Ochoa, a deputy marshal for Corpus Christi and owner of a Corpus Christi investigative firm. "Right now, I do have administrative experience with my business. I know how to work the budget. I know how to schedule the officers."
Ochoa, 33, is a Robstown native and 1993 graduate of Robstown High School. He moved back to Robstown about two years ago and is the youngest candidate in the March 4 constable's primary, but he doesn't see his comparative youth as a disadvantage with voters.
"I think it works for me," he said. "Even though I'm the youngest, I still have the experience and education as the other candidates."
This is Ochoa's first attempt for public office, although he comes from a family with a history of public service.
Ochoa's aunt, Rafaela Lerma, is a former mayor of Robstown. His father, Salvador Ochoa Sr., and brother, Salvador Ochoa Jr., are both former Robstown City Councilmen. His other brother, Juan Ochoa Sr., is a St. Anthony's Catholic School board member.
Gerald Ochoa's wife, Michelle, is a criminal defense lawyer and former Nueces County assistant district attorney.
"It's a tradition for us to help out the community," Gerald Ochoa said. "I want to continue the tradition. I was actually thinking about running about five years ago. During that time, I wanted to actually gain more experience at the city marshal's office."
Ochoa began his law enforcement career with the Robstown Police Department in September 1996. He served as a patrol officer, bike patrol officer, community policing officer, a detective, a K-9 officer and a field training officer, achieving the position of a shift supervisor, before leaving the department in 2001.
"As a former community policing officer for Robstown P.D., I know what it takes to make the program succeed," he said. "I think that the department needs a big change. They need to work more with the community, with the schools. I've got plans to increase the department's presence in the community with more patrols."
Ochoa was also a law enforcement teacher for Robstown Independent School District from 2004 through 2007. He has been a deputy marshal for the city of Corpus Christi since 2001. He also serves as a field training officer and instructor in the marshal's office, and he says he has much experience serving subpoenas and warrants.
"One of the main things of the constable's office is knowing how to work with the courts," he said. "As a Corpus Christi deputy marshal, I understand the importance of the courts. So I know the proper procedures to work together with the courts to make the judicial system a success."
Ochoa has also been co-owner, manager and an investigator for Ochoa Investigations of Corpus Christi since last year. The private investigative firm has six officers and three investigators and conducts criminal and civil investigations, as well as civil processing and security officer training.
Ochoa said, if elected constable, he would focus on community policing. He said he would look for grants to hire a community policing officer or reassign a deputy as a community policing officer.
Ochoa also said he wants to have an officer work with Agua Dulce and Banquete schools and have officers working around the clock at the Precinct 5 constable's substation in Agua Dulce to increase response times in Agua Dulce, Banquete and Bluntzer.
"Hopefully it will help reduce crime there," he said. "Residents say response times are long from Robstown. Having the presence of the officer there will probably help reduce crime."
Precinct 5 encompasses 320 square miles, bordered on the west by Jim Wells County, FM 1694 on the east, San Patricio County to the north, and Driscoll city limits on the south. The constable's office has 13 full-time officers and serves as the principal policing agency for Agua Dulce, Banquete and Bluntzer, while also covering Robstown.
Ochoa said drugs and burglaries are two of the biggest criminal issues in the precinct.
"I want to start a coalition of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to start off narcotics task forces and also work on burglary patrols," he said.
Ochoa also said he wants to modernize the constable's office with computers in patrol vehicles, new drug-detection equipment and better computer software for report writing.
"I think I can actually make a big change and bring in the updated technology, just as the Corpus Christi Police Department and sheriff's department has right now," he said. "Report writing is very important. The officer needs to know how to write a report."
Ochoa said the constable's office has not fully utilized law enforcement resources for training and case management. He said he would improve officer education and training and bring in the district attorney's office "to see how they could improve the officers' reports, the officer's mentality of reporting it, and how to make it a successful case."
"This is a position where every year you need to improve, the constable and the department," he said.
Ochoa, the son of Oralia and Salvador Ochoa Sr., graduated from Bee County College in 1995 with an associate's degree in criminal justice.
His law enforcement credentials are extensive, including licenses as a Basic Peace Officer, Intermediate Peace Officer, Advanced Peace Officer and Master Peace Officer, with more than 2,500 additional classroom hours of law enforcement education and training.
He has been married to Michelle Ochoa for three years and the couple has three boys, two of which are school age and attend Robstown schools.
Ochoa is a Robstown Little league coach and sponsor, a Hospitality Committee member and parishioner of St. Anthony Catholic Church, and a former Robstown volunteer firefighter and Police Explorer advisor.