By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen's crime rate is not where its police chief would like it to be, but things are improving, the City Council learned at a workshop meeting Tuesday.
Police Chief Dennis Baldwin briefed the council on what the police department is doing to curb crime in Killeen.
Baldwin reported that violent crimes were down 3.31 percent and nonviolent crimes were down 9 percent in 2006.
"That's good news that shows we are in the right direction but not where we want to be," Baldwin said.
Part of the reason crime is not where Baldwin would like it to be is because
statistics show Killeen leads Texas in burglaries. Baldwin spent most of the meeting discussing burglaries.
Several steps Baldwin has taken to address burglary include:
Getting longer jail sentences from the district attorney's office.
Sharing intelligence with neighboring cities.
Establishing a burglary working group.
Creating a burglary unit.
Adding staffing to patrol and conduct criminal investigations.
Councilwoman Claudia Brown is concerned particularly about District 4, which is the district she represents.
Brown researched that 89 of 103 crimes in Killeen during the past 11 days occurred in her district.
Baldwin said the department uses a statistics approach to assess beats and to deploy officers, but would have to look into Brown's figures before he could comment on the crimes in Brown's district.
Councilman Billy Workman said Brown's statistics show that more officers need to be added to District 4.
Workman is also concerned that officers are not being deployed into residential areas and are just focusing on the main highway.
Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham asked Baldwin about the effect early-release programs have on crime. Baldwin said criminals returning to the streets have been and continue to be a problem for Killeen.
Councilman Juan Rivera asked Baldwin about the difficulty of punishing juvenile offenders.
Rivera said from his own law enforcement experience that punishing juveniles is difficult.
Killeen does have a problem with punishing juvenile offenders, but it's also part of a nationwide problem, Baldwin said.
Baldwin said one approach the department is looking at is a juvenile curfew.
He added that crime is not just a product of youths, but adults as well.
Councilmen Larry Cole and Rivera asked Baldwin about community programs such as neighborhood watch.
Cole said neighborhood watch programs need more publicity and went as far as to say, "It seems like neighborhood watch is going by the wayside."
Baldwin said he is expanding the department's efforts to get residents involved in programs such as community forums, community leader meetings, Killeen Citizens on Patrol, the citizen police academy, neighborhood watch and business watch.
Rivera thinks police publicity is only part of the issue.
"We need to be proactive to get together. Citizens need to take a step to help us out," Rivera said.
Other programs available to the community are Crime Stoppers, Killeen Police Department explorers, and home vacation and security watches.
Workman said he is planning a February forum with community leaders and residents to talk about community issues, specifically crime.
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254)501-7468