Killeen Councilwoman Shirley Fleming was nearly in tears as she addressed the 30 people sitting in the living room of her Kenyon Street home Monday evening.
With all of the talk about crime that’s been going on, she’s been adamant about spreading the neighborhood watch groups across the entire city. As she spoke to residents who live in the same neighborhood that she does, her tone remained the same.
“People have got to follow our lead,” she said after the meeting. “We’re going to take our neighborhood back, those crooks are going to be running from us.”
Fleming invited people to her Kenyon Street home by knocking on neighbors doors in the month leading up to the meeting.
That resulted in roughly 30 residents of her neighborhood showing up, along with Mayor Jose Segarra, Killeen Councilman Gregory Johnson, Killeen Police Department Lt.. Willie Bryant and Tammy Moseley, the KPD crime prevention coordinator.
Fleming’s neighborhood isn’t saturated with crime, but it does have its fair share. In the past year, there have been nine assaults, five car burglaries, four home burglaries, three cases of fraud, two car thefts and a murder in the square mile stretch from Standridge Street to Stardust Street.
On March 4, 33-year-old Bo Gene Swetlik was found shot to death at his home on Lake Road, which is nearby.
Moseley told those in attendance that there had been 13 calls to Kenyon Street alone in the past four months, but nine of those calls were for miscellaneous, low-threat offenses.
Since October, there have been four neighborhood watch groups pop up throughout Killeen, according to Moseley — Stallion Drive, Creekside Drive, in North Killeen, Pershing Park, just south of U.S. Highway 190, and Kenyon Street, located in the north.
It’s possible that it’s a result of several community meetings put on by members of the City Council. Fleming hopes it’s just the start of something that happens citywide.
Mayor Pro Tem Brockley Moore, Fleming and most recently, Gregory Johnson have all held meetings to address several issues that exist throughout the city.
Crime, and the increase of it, has been a major talking point at each meeting. And Moseley has been at each meeting, prepared to give out crime prevention tips to those in need of them.
Stallion Drive residents who live near Live Oak Middle School are among the most recent residents to start a neighborhood watch group.
That was spearheaded after Kathryn Lipp stood up in front of an audience at the KPD biannual community forum and expressed her frustration. Her home and car have been broken into and vandalized. She was continuously told it was simply “bored teenagers,” but enough was enough.
“I can get Papa John’s to my house quicker than I can get KPD to my house,” Lipp said at that Jan. 12 meeting.
Moseley addressed residents’ frustration in some response times by officers. There are usually only about 15 officers out on patrol at a time, she said.
If there is a call for a domestic incident and another for a serious car crash at the same time, as many as half of the officers on patrol could be tied up. That means lower priority calls — like a complaint about loud music while someone tries to put their baby to sleep at 9 p.m. — won’t get a response for up to 45 minutes on a busy night, Moseley said.
Fleming’s district is home to seven of the city’s 16 slayings in 2016. And with the city’s budget looking the way it is, she knows it will take more than just the police department to clean up the city.
Gus Reina is a resident of District 4, but he’s an administrator of the Crime Watch — Killeen, Cove, Harker Heights Facebook page online.
He’s working with Fleming and Johnson to help start neighborhood watch groups in his part of the city. He has children himself and doesn’t think they can go outside and play in the neighborhood like he used to when he was a child.
“We need more of this, but there’s nothing really official,” he said. “I had a lot of people from my district who wanted to attend tonight, but couldn’t because there was no room.
“Killeen police work very, very hard, we know that,” Reina said. “But they have limited resources, so we all have to work together. That’s a lot of what it’s about.”
According to KPD interim Police Chief Margaret Young, violent crime is on the rise in Killeen. There were eight arrests after 16 slayings in 2016. That number decreased from 2015, but Young said of 17 slayings in 15 incidents in 2015, just four of the cases were unsolved by year’s end.
Meanwhile, violent robberies have increased, as well as sexual assaults. The exact numbers are not known yet, Young said at a community forum Jan. 12.