By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
If there was one issue every candidate in the May 10 Killeen City Council and mayoral election had on their list and could agree on, it was crime.
"Nothing else matters if you don't have a handle on your crime rate," said Maureen Jouett, who finished second in the mayoral race.
Jouett, who served as mayor from 2000-2006 and on the city council before that, said every study done in the past that gauged public perception or gathered input from residents showed a concern for safety.
"We really need to get the word out that we're not the soft underbelly," Jouett said.
Lahr Parsons, who finished fourth in the mayoral race, said the police are too busy.
"The only time you see them, they've got the lights on and they're scooting," Parsons said.
He said the Killeen Police Department officers are good at what they do, but there are not enough of them.
With 240 officers against 120,000 residents – "something's not fair here," Parsons said.
He said despite the decline in the statistics, the city has a way to go to improve the crime situation.
"Take a look at the crime – just take a look at it, I don't care about how statistically crime is going down," Parsons said, noting he still frequently reads about burglaries. "So now we're having 12 instead of 13."
Parsons applauded the recent Blue Canopy programs that institute a no-tolerance policy for problem areas in town.
"We need more of what the police department has started," Parsons said referring to the Blue Canopy program. "That tells you they're out there, they're doing something, they're finding things."
In his monthly briefing to the Killeen City Council on May 27, Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said the recent Blue Canopy program – in both its phases – had resulted in 64 arrests, 187 citations and 687 citizen contacts.
Scott Cosper, who raked in the most votes in the city council race, said public safety is always a high priority for him.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Cosper said. "We still need to make that a priority."
Cosper, who served three previous terms on the council, said he put fighting crime as a top issue for his campaign because he sees it as a quality-of-life issue.
Billy Workman, who also won a seat in the election with the second-highest number of votes, said a city like Killeen can never have enough police.
"Our city cannot operate and take care of its people if you don't have boots on the ground," Workman said.
He noted that being the home to Fort Hood and so close to other cities means many people from outside Killeen frequently visit the city.
Workman, who is serving his second term, said there is too much vandalism, violent crime and accidents in Killeen.
"I think we need to be more focused on giving the police department more of what they need," Workman said.
Larry Cole, who received the third most votes to keep his council seat, said nobody likes the reputation of having the highest burglary rate per capita in the state.
"The citizens need to feel safe and that their property is safe," Cole said. "I think it is the duty of the government to provide as safe (an environment as) possible to residents."