By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
In recent years, crime statistics left Killeen beaten and bruised, the victim of a state-leading burglary rate and a rising crime rate.
In 2008, the Killeen Police Department fought back, reduced burglaries and the healing has begun.
Now when statistics pit Killeen against state heavyweights with greater than 100,000 populations like Waco, Dallas and San Antonio, Killeen is more than holding its own, grouped because of population, not because of an out-of-control crime problem.
Killeen achieved the highest percentage drop in total crimes in 2008 for cities over 100,000 population, according to the first round of numbers released by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Killeen's volume of crimes decreased by 13.1 percent in 2008, outpacing nearest competitors, Amarillo (10.9 percent)
and Dallas (10.3 percent). The DPS report compared each city's 2008 crime totals against their 2007 crime totals to calculate in percent how much they improved or worsened. The report then grouped all cities with populations above 100,000 against their own benchmarks to see how much they improved.
A total of 853 fewer crimes were reported in Killeen in 2008 (5,642) than 2007 (6,495), leading to the 13.1 percent decline.
Dallas, for example, had 10,041 fewer crimes reported, but because their total crime in 2007 (97,210) was so high, their percentage improvement was not as great as Killeen.
The preliminary numbers were more welcome news for Police Chief Dennis Baldwin. Baldwin once again credited his department, city officials, alert residents and the Bell County District Attorney's Office with causing the decrease.
"It's not only about public safety and crime. It was about the way we were united with the citizens, with the media. The idea behind this is we can't give only victory to public safety. The citizens took a stand. The neighborhood watches were very proactive," Councilman Juan Rivera said.
Rivera was one of the most outspoken city officials in late 2007 and early 2008 when statistics revealed Killeen's crime woes.
Baldwin hopes good news does not lead to complacency. Baldwin often credits vigilant neighbors who report burglaries in progress and help police capture suspects when he discusses the improvements.
So far in 2009, Killeen continues to gain ground in the fight against crime. Aggravated assaults and robberies were the only two crimes to increase in 2008, but they have both decreased significantly through March.
"It could result in people becoming more comfortable with what was achieved, but in reality, that would be a mistake. Our work is not done and we need to stay in the fight to make Killeen the safest community it can become," Baldwin said.
Contact Victor O'Brien at email@example.com or (254) 501-7468.
Top 5 drops in crime
1. Killeen (13.1 percent)
2. Amarillo (10.9 percent)
3. Dallas (10.3 percent)
4. Houston (8.4 percent)
5. Waco (8.1 percent)
Source: Texas Department of Public Safety
Murder 10 12
Rape 65 82
Robbery 216 202
Agg. Assault 591 518
Burglary 1,709 2,319
Larceny 2,876 3,098
Vehicle Thefts 176 263
First Quarter Comparison
Murder 0 1
Rape 15 10
Robbery 27 43
Agg. Assault 108 128
Burglary 316 442
Larceny 774 627
Vehicle Thefts 43 44
Source: Killeen Police Department