‘It feels good’: Dignowity Hill SAFFE officer talks about connecting with community

Officer Carlos Gutierrez is assigned to prevent crime, build relationships

SAN ANTONIO – A bulletproof vest and handcuffs are two of the tools in Officer Carlos Gutierrez’s arsenal, but when he’s patrolling the streets — the most important is his charm.

Gutierrez is a SAFFE officer in the San Antonio Police Department, and for the last six months, he’s been patrolling Dignowity Hill.

“Everybody wants to be part of Dignowity,” said Gutierrez.

As part of the SAFFE unit — an acronym for San Antonio Fear Free Environment — Gutierrez is tasked with trying to prevent crime before it happens.

It’s why he spends so much time in the East Side neighborhood.

“Everyone knows when I’m out there,” he said. “They recognize me, they see me, they know.”

Instead of jumping from call to call, Gutierrez’s job is to get to know the people he serves.

During one of his patrols, Gutierrez showed KSAT around the neighborhood.

“I’m just coming to say, ‘Hi,’ man,” he said while speaking to people living at a homeless camp. “Y’all doing good?”

For many residents of Dignowity Hill, their home is on the streets.

Gutierrez said many of them set up around the Hays Street Bridge.

“There’s a few people hanging out here in the corner,” he said while driving in his patrol car. “They’re not doing a whole lot.”

While others may turn the other way, Gutierrez goes right up to them.

“Every interaction they had with an officer, they thought, ‘Oh, they’re going to give me a ticket,’ or ‘They’re going to arrest me. Oh, they’re just messing with me,’” he explained. “So when I would come out here, I would talk to them.”

Gutierrez explained that connecting with people in the neighborhood takes time and trust.

“I treat everybody as if they were my mother and my father or my brother and my wife,” he said. “That’s how I talk to people.”

For the first time in his 17-year career with San Antonio police, Gutierrez feels like people finally see the person he is behind the badge.

“It feels good,” he said, smiling. “It feels good being in the department as long as I have been.”

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About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.

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