By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
As the population of the city of Killeen continues to swell, so does crime rate.
Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin addressed that issue in a brief question and answer session last week:
Q: While the number is rather low, what do you attribute the increase in reported crime – 6,668 cases in 2005 from 5,862 in 2004, a difference of 806?
A: The most significant factor in Killeen's rising crime has been its explosive growth in population. In many instances, more people can equate to more crime. When a community experiences the kind of growth Killeen has, it takes an added effort to address policing issues.
Q: What plans do you have to address crime in Killeen?
A: Overall, I think the Killeen Police Department is responding to crime in a more focused manner. Moreover, our resources are being deployed much faster to address crime issues, as they are identified through CompStat or Computer Statistics, KPD's policing strategy.
The most significant impact to crime, however, will be the availability of officers. Or, as some like to refer to it, more boots on the ground. When crime occurs or needs investigated, it boils down to having the officers available to do the job.
Because our community is growing so fast, it poses some challenges in this area. However, the mayor, City Council and city manager are all aware of the impact this growth has on our community and remain committed to providing more police officers, vehicles and equipment to address these challenges.
As these resources become available and with the community's involvement and support, we will prevail in controlling and reducing crime. We will undoubtedly have some setbacks, but eventually we will succeed.
There is one more point that relates to addressing crime. Every year, there is stiff competition for available resources within the city to fund new programs and services. This includes the police department. No doubt this is true throughout America.
Since Killeen is one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States (21st according to the U.S. Census Bureau), there should be some special considerations for funding at the state and federal level to help communities keep up with this growth.
While it is not my place to endorse any candidate, I think we all could agree it is important to get out and vote this election year to find representatives at the state and federal level that will assist our communities through these challenging times.
Q: Why do Killeen officials constantly say more than 100,000 people reside in the city when the Department of Public Safety has a smaller figure? (98,538 in 2005 and 97,774 in 2004)
A: The varying population numbers do cause some confusion. Unfortunately, I do not see a resolution anytime soon. There are too many entities throughout the United States reporting information about Killeen, and they all do not use the same reference material or generate their reports in a timely manner. Thus, the information is routinely inaccurate or outdated by the time it is received.
The fact is that the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Killeen's population in July 2006 at 100,233. It also reported that Killeen was the 21st fastest-growing city in the United States. I think it would be hard for anyone to accurately say, with certainty, what the population number is. Most who live in this community would put the number higher. I tend to agree. Nevertheless, the police department uses the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, which should bring about consistency, predictability and confidence in its reporting.
Q: What do you think about the recent "dangerous city" rating that Killeen was included in, a report compiled by the Morgan Quitno Press?
A: The company that provided the report came up with a formula that gave the same weighted factor for each of the FBI reported categories. The problem with this method of reporting is that they are giving a stolen lawnmower out of a person's home the same weighted factor as a murder, sexual assault or robbery. I certainly would not give them equal value on any methodology, which is why I cannot put too much stock in the report.
Moreover, the southern region of the United States, such as Texas, Florida and California, is experiencing significantly more growth in population than other parts of the nation. This fact should have been considered when developing weighted factors.
Killeen City Manager Connie Green said police protection is the highest priority in the city's citizens' survey, and the council has recognized that.
"In the last two years, we have added 34 new positions to our police force, which increased our number of authorized police officers to 207," Green said. "We met our goal of staffing two police officers per 1,000 Killeen citizens, and we will continue to add police officers as necessary in future budgets to ensure our department is adequately staffed."
Green said the city has invested a lot of resources to ensure not only that Killeen police officers are adequately staffed but that they are adequately equipped and paid.
"I want citizens to know that we do recognize that some crime statistics have increased, and that we are going to address those as number one priority in our budgeting process," Green said.
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at email@example.com