By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Since the news broke that Killeen ranked as the fifth most dangerous city in Texas – with the highest burglary rate in the state – the Killeen City Council has kept a close eye on the police department.
Last November, a report by publishers of Congressional Quarterly magazine revealed Killeen's ranking with nationwide crime data in its 14th annual City Crime Rankings based on numbers from 2006.
In December, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin addressed the city council about the crime rate and what will be done to lower it.
Since then, Baldwin has been briefing the council each month on the latest crime statistics – so far so good with each month being lower than the previous one and better than 2007.
Councilman Juan Rivera said those briefings have been well-received.
"I'm glad the people who got elected have a mentality for public safety," Rivera said.
City Manager Connie Green said the briefings were requested by the council.
He said the briefings give the police chief an opportunity to have a dialog with the council about the status of crime and how things can be done to do better.
Rivera said the police department is a high priority for him as a councilman.
"I think the chief of police is doing a great job," Rivera said.
Rivera wants the council to focus on getting the police department the personnel and equipment it needs to lower the crime rate and make Killeen safer.
"We cannot expect to fight crime without police officers and without proper equipment," Rivera said.
In his most recent briefing, Baldwin revealed crime statistics year-to-date through April. Those numbers continued to show a downward trend. Baldwin reported that, year-to-date, violent crimes have decreased by 14 incidents compared to the same period last year and, year-to-date, nonviolent crimes have decreased by 340 incidents.
Councilman Larry Cole said the statistics are misleading.
"We are manning our police department based on the civilian statistics," Cole said.
The per capita rate is higher than the number of people the police department serves because of the number of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood who are frequently in Killeen and the close proximity of several other cities, Cole said, adding that there need to be more officers on the streets.
With the added personnel in the Fiscal Year 2007-08 budget, the police department would have 224 patrol officers, giving it about two officers per 1,000 residents. Green estimates Killeen's population at about 115,000.
Fort Hood has nearly 47,000 soldiers stationed there.
"We're going to have to come up with a plan," Cole said.