Crime in Killeen has seen ups and downs this year, with police making headway on fighting burglaries while seeing increases in robberies and rapes.
Statistics maintained by the Killeen Police Department through the end of November show a drop in four of seven categories police are required to report to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The amount of homicides, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts declined in the first 11 months of the year when compared to the same period in 2011. Statistics for December will not be available until mid-January, when the department completes its annual Uniform Crime Report.
Through November, Killeen saw burglaries decrease about 27.5 percent from 2011, the largest year-over-year rate decrease of all examined areas. The largest increase occurred in robberies, with the total amount of reported instances rising 37.1 percent.
The rate of burglaries remained high in 2012 when compared to the national average. In 11 months, the city had a rate of more than 1,000 burglaries per 100,000 homes, nearly twice the national average.
Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said the department will continue to work to bring the rate down to the national average. “We’re within striking distance,” he said.
He credited the decrease in burglaries to KPD’s Patrol Unit and the decision to increase the size of the Burglary Unit. Patrol coupled with keen-eyed residents helped KPD capture more burglars in the act, while the Burglary Unit focused on investigating and charging repeat offenders.
“I think we’re seeing the results,” Baldwin said. “We’re pleased to see them. ... But we have to bring them down.”
The robbery increase includes armed robberies along with crimes that started out as incidents of shoplifting that changed designations because a person was injured while the suspect fled a store.
Armed robberies most often involved people who had placed themselves in “at-risk” situations, such as being out on foot late at night, Baldwin said.
“The bottom line is there are things like drug dependency that play a part,” he said of the increase.
Additions of new technology within the department will help combat robberies. Data driven patrols to areas that see sudden increases in robberies will help patrol officers target problem areas and prevent crimes before they are committed.
The department added analytic software to patrol cars in 2012 that can also produce quick reports. Some of that data is available publicly at the website raidsonline.com.
The department will fill 17 vacancies starting in January. However, those officers will not be on the streets and fully independent until later in the year.
Many of the vacancies resulted from numerous retirements of high ranking officers. In August, the department honored six retirees with more than 175 years of total service to the KPD.
The department promoted several ranking officers into new command positions, keeping structure largely intact. But each officer with decades of experience who retired meant one more officer with little to no experience was hired.
“With somebody walking out with 30 years of experience and someone new to the field, you won’t have the same results,” Baldwin said.
Those officers’ promotions did mean exposure to leadership training. It also exposed several units to fresh ideas.
“They were all good friends, and I hate to see them go, but it is nice to see the department go on with new ideas and take it to the next level,” Baldwin said.