Oct. 21, 2010 -- There's a new police chief in Praxedis G Guerrero and she's being called "the bravest woman in Mexico."
Marisol Valles Garcia, a 20-year-old criminology student and mother of one, was sworn in Wednesday to head a new program of crime prevention in the farming town located in one of the bloodiest regions in the country.
"I'm doing this for my people," she said. "This is not for me. I'm tired of all the drug violence."
Just miles from the U.S. border, Praxedis G Guerrero, population 8,500, has been the site of a turf war between rival drug cartels who residents say patrol the night in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks carrying assault and sniper rifles.
"I accepted [the job] because I liked the project and I want to collaborate and live with my people, my family, my community," she said during her first news conference.
Jose Luis Guerrero, the town's mayor, said he did not have anyone to work in public security before Valles Garcia.
"Today we have more than what we expected," he said. "This is a woman of principles."
The new police chief and her officers will not carry a gun -- "Our weapons will be principles and values," she said -- but she will have two bodyguards. She said her team of 12 officers will each be assigned to a neighborhood to talk with families, promote civic values and detect potential crimes. She plans to increase the number of women officers because she said they help build a sense of trust.
"What we are going to do is work in prevention, visiting home by home to share experiences with the families and strengthen the family values," she said.
The Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels have been fighting for control of Praxedis' one highway, a lucrative drug route along the Texas border.
Cartels in many drug-plagued parts of Mexico have killed or threatened police chiefs and their departments, buying off some officers and causing others to quit. Nationwide, 28,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels. Recently, the assistant mayor of nearby El Porvenir and the mayor of Distrito Bravos were killed.
Valles Garcia: 'Fear Is Very Natural'
Valles Garcia, whose only police experience was working as a department secretary, said it was natural to be scared.
"Fear is very natural," she said. "All of us are afraid. We're human beings. But I know we're going to accomplish this."
"All jobs carry an element of risk," Valles Garcia told the BBC. "I am conscious of that but I also know that I have to do something to combat the problems we face. I took the decision to take on this project and it's the right decision."
ABC News' Austin, Texas, affiliate KVUE and The Associated Press contributed to this article.