By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
A growing police department in a growing city has increased needs, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said. In the past four years, with the support of the Killeen City Council, Baldwin has been able to position the police department to aggressively attack crime, leading to a drop so far this year.
With a rising population, however, Baldwin has several needs he hopes will be supported: more staff, more vehicles, new equipment and community support.
The police department expects Killeen's population to reach 121,000 by 2010 and with that Baldwin hopes to have at least two officers per 1,000 residents. To make that possible, Baldwin has budgeted for more officers in the past few years and plans to do so in 2008 to reach his goal of 242.
"I need to prepare for that today and not wait for it then," he said. "Progress is being made on many fronts (in crime), but it all comes down to those boots on the ground when it comes to keeping up with those calls for service."
Calls-for-service have increased 9.83 percent through April and could continue to increase with the population.
The ideal plan would be to staff about 260 officers to handle Killeen's service population, which far exceeds how many residents actually live in Killeen. In addition to more patrol officers to respond to crimes and detectives to investigate, civilian staff and public service officers will be needed to back up those officers at the department.
"We can't do our job without civilian support staff," Baldwin said. "They all weigh in on our success."
The more officers KPD has, the more vehicles will be needed to put those officers and detectives on the street. Also, those officers will be more effective in fully-equipped patrol units with new equipment and not just recycled material from older units.
"The last thing we want to do is take old, outdated equipment and move it from vehicle to vehicle," he said.
Much of the department's specialized equipment has been acquired through budget funding in the past several years. A helicopter, to be used in vehicle chases, area searches and to add more eyes over the city, is a wish Baldwin hopes is granted in 2008. Baldwin made a proposal to the Killeen City Council for KPD to purchase and maintain a helicopter in April.
In addition, Baldwin hopes for a license plate recognition scanner that runs registration checks as they pass on the road instead of an officer having to radio or type in a license plate number.
The scanner reviews thousands of vehicles a day, while an officer may only do several dozen, he said.
The scanner will help track wanted persons and stolen vehicles through vehicle registrations.
In addition, crime scene and surveillance technology is also on his wish list. Baldwin declined to detail specific technology to avoid giving away police strategy. The department plans to apply for grants to supplement any city funding in order to obtain new equipment since the investigative equipment is particularly expensive.
Baldwin considers community voices as essential as any other plans.
When residents speak up, the department learns about areas they need to improve and areas of the city that need more officers, Baldwin said.
Even more important, tips and leads from residents alert them to criminal activity.
"I need them to continue to report suspicious activity and crime in their neighborhoods – regardless of what they think is going to get done with it. That information is vital because if we don't know what's going on it's very difficult to allocate resources to the problem."
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.