Aaron Yzquierdo (l) worked with his Dad, Raul (r), in the Robbery Division at the Houston Police Department.
For his senior year internship, Aaron Yzquierdo followed in his father’s footsteps at the Houston Police Department Robbery Division. Now he has the opportunity to follow his career.
“In the middle of October, they (the Houston Police Department) offered me a job,” said Yzquierdo. “The academy begins in February, but I really want to finish school. I also am considering going into the military after school.”
When he first got to Sam Houston State University, Yzquierdo didn’t know what career path he wanted to follow. But after his first class in criminal justice, he was hooked. He began to do ride alongs with his father Raul to get extra credit in class. He decided to pursue his internship in the Robbery Division, which investigates theft cases where a person causes or threatens bodily harm in the commission of a crime. The unit investigates 700 cases a year.
“It was really an eye opening experience about what really goes on,” said Yzquierdo.
Aaron Yzquierdo worked the front desk talking to victims.Yzquierdo has been involved in various stages of the process, from identifying leads in crime reports, to fielding calls from victims, and witnessing police lineups and interrogations. Along the way, he has learned to read subtle signs from suspects and interrogation techniques from officers. He also has applied lessons from SHSU professors in human behavior to dealing with victims.
“We generally have one to two interns from Sam Houston State University,” said Officer Jeff Wagner of the Robbery Division. “They normally come in and train to work at the front desk. They handle phone calls from victims of robberies and sometimes there are walk-ins. It teaches them to talk to victims, get information and do reports.”
The College of Criminal Justice offers about 200 internships in the field and students can earn up to nine credit hours in their senior year to participate in the program. The internships include federal, state and local law enforcement, corrections, and victim service agencies as well as private security firms.
Yzquierdo tracks down leads with Officer Michelle Mize. “What the students get out of this is to learn how to investigate crimes and start an investigation,” said Wagner. “For us, it helps with manpower.”
Yzquierdo’s first assignment was case management. Every morning, he would grab the overnight reports of robbery that came into the office and look for possible leads for officers. He called hospitals to check on the condition of victims or apartment managers to verify the occupants near crime scenes.
Yzquierdo reviews video of a live lineup.He also got a chance to observe a police lineup with victims of two separate crimes, a robbery of an auto inspection station and a street robbery. Following the description provided by both victims, six black males were led into the room and asked to turn left and right and repeat the phrase “where’s the money?” Despite knowing nothing about the facts of the case, Yzquierdo said he could pick out the suspect right away.
“You could tell who the person was, he was sweating more than the other guys,” Yzquierdo said. “He also didn’t want to say anything.”
One of the victims picked out the suspect, but the other victim said he didn’t recognize the perpetrator. Yzquierdo knew from watching the victim’s eyes that he had seen the man who had robbed him. His father told him many people don’t pick out the suspect out of fear or an unwritten code of the streets.
Audio tapes are kept to review interrogations.Yzquierdo also watched the interrogation of the suspect and how the officer, his father’s partner, got him to talk. During the initial questioning, the suspect sat with his hands in and feet crossed, indicating that he was not ready to talk. After the officer began asking about the suspect’s family and girlfriend, his posture changed and he began to open up. That’s when the officer caught him in conflicting statements and told him about the victim identification.
“I was reading his body language and how he sits,” said Yzquierdo.
Posters of gang members may help identify suspects in robberies.Yzquierdo also observed a second interrogation involving a member of the MS 13 gang who had robbed a gas station, where a woman was shot. Despite having one child and a second on the way, the 18 to 19 year old male suspect refused to give up the shooter in the case.
“I was really angry that his gang family was more important than his real family,” said Yzquierdo.
Toward the end of his internship, Yzquierdo was assigned to the front desk answering phones. Many of the calls were from victims following up on their cases. He had to explain the process of the investigation, keep them informed about their stolen goods or record serial numbers from stolen items. He was amazed by the prevalence of cell phone robberies that were occurring.
“It’s crazy what’s going on,” Yzquierdo said. “You have to understand human behavior and you have to understand the victim. A lot of them are stressed out, and you have to calm them down. A lot of them want to go after the person themselves and you have to tell them they can’t do that.”
Yzquierdo poses in front of a Houston Police Department patrol car. Yzquierdo said the biggest lesson he has learned on the job is to be aware of your surroundings.
“You always have to be aware of what side of town you are on and what time of day it is,” said Yzquierdo. “You always want to be aware and keep watch. I found myself going to gas stations and always looking around. After all, victims are just regular people just going to their jobs day to day when everything is taken from them.”