To figure out the root of the crime problem in Killeen, police need to dive deep into the numbers. With a depleted budget and little possibility for new hires, police Chief Charles “Chuck” Kimble turned to the Department of Justice for a little help.
The collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs will create a crime reduction strategy by examining the city’s crime environment, evaluating response methods and developing proactive approaches to achieve results.
“As I started to dig deep into the numbers, I thought we weren’t really getting to the root issues of crime. ... I heard a lot of anecdotal things but I didn’t hear a lot of hardcore things as to particularly why there’s so much crime in this town,” Kimble said in a news release Dec. 21 announcing the partnership.
The justice programs diagnostic center uses a data-driven approach for diagnosing crime and its root causes.
The DOJ has assisted in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Kimble was the assistant police chief for five years. When he got to Killeen, Kimble knew that program had the potential to help Killeen police. What he didn’t know, was whether the city would qualify.
“I thought we might qualify, so I talked to (Cmdr.) Erich Morsbach and made him the project manager.” Kimble asked him to do some research and look at other departments.
Killeen is only the second city in Texas to announce the partnership. The other is Dallas.
“We looked at the (FBI Uniform Crime Report) numbers, saw spikes, knew that there would probably be a record year for homicides,” Kimble said. “We knew that if we focus on our burglaries, we could probably bring some crime down.”
From his preliminary research, Kimble has determined that many of the firearms used in cases around the city are obtained illegally through home and car burglaries. If you prevent those firearms from being stolen out of homes, you can more easily prevent them from ending up on the streets.
“That’s the crime that we can have the most impact on,” he said.
“The majority of homicides are either people related to a criminal lifestyle, or domestic abuse. It’s hard for us to stop someone who wants to kill another person.”
Kimble was the assistant chief for the Fayetteville Police Department when the DOJ study got underway there, and he was running for the position of Cumberland County sheriff by the time it was released in November 2014.
While conducting the study in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the DOJ stated that a series of traffic stops and police-involved shootings during the late 2000s contributed to a “culture of mistrust between the African-American community and the police department.” Violent crime spiked by 48 percent from 2000 to 2010.
The study found five factors contributed to the issue:
- Strained community-police relations, due to past claims of racial profiling or use of force incidents against African-American community members.
- Limited positive interaction between police and youth, which caused confusion or negative experiences during police interactions.
- Limited awareness and availability of resources and services, as reported by residents.
- Communication barriers due to a “limited approach” to information release.
- A lack of holistic research and evaluation opportunities with local academic institutions, which would ensure evaluation and research of practices for the entire community.
The DOJ then continued to recommend evidence-based programs and practices.
“Transparency earns trust,” a line in the report said. “Opening doors to community members and requesting their involvement helps to change perceptions and can begin healing process from past actions.”
The DOJ also determined that the majority of property and violent crimes were committed by people under the age of 30. That was important to learn, as 25 percent of the Fayetteville population is under the age of 18.
While African-Americans made up 42 percent of the Fayetteville population when the study was done, they accounted for 69 percent of all arrests, according to the DOJ’s findings. African-American offenders between the ages of 16-18 accounted for 78 percent of the arrests in that age group.
The study also took a look at one particular street in the city that had a high number of arrests of African-American residents, and interviewed people about their perceptions of police.
It is Kimble’s hope that the study will help the community, as well as the police department. He plans to involve representatives from the Bell County adult probation office, Fort Hood, the Killeen Independent School District and juvenile probation. There’s enough data on file with the juvenile probation department to determine which ZIP codes the majority of offenders come from, as well as which school an offender attends. When researchers obtain the data, they’ll be able to dig deep to find the root of the cause.
“It’s going to be a very holistic look at crime,” Kimble said. “That’s one of the most exciting things about this.”