Killeen residents got a bit of good news last week.
Police Chief Charles “Chuck” Kimble told the Killeen City Council the city’s crime rate has fallen significantly in the last six months.
In fact, violent crime incidents were down 36 percent from December to February in comparison to the same period in 2016-17, Kimble said, and they are at their lowest level since January 2016.
That’s certainly good news, especially in the wake of last year’s troubling spike in homicides that left many residents understandably concerned.
Still, whether criminal activity is declining or on the rise, crime remains a community problem.
That much has been made abundantly clear in recent months, as Kimble, several city council members, council candidates and residents have come together to listen, learn and seek solutions.
And that’s as it should be.
As in any city, Killeen’s police department doesn’t have the manpower to keep an eye on every neighborhood, at all times. In a growing community with a population nearing 150,000, that challenge is especially daunting.
Certainly, police can target areas with a history of criminal activity with increased patrols — and indeed, KPD does just that where it’s warranted, with considerable success.
Police must use every resource available to gain an advantage in the fight against crime. Kimble said the department’s recent success was due to a commitment to using statistics, greater operational efficiency, and pushing for state and federal partnerships to go after repeat offenders.
But the best defense against crime is an engaged populace — an element that Kimble readily acknowledges. That engagement means watching for suspicious activity, communicating with neighbors and passing on observations and concerns to police.
This concept is nothing new.
The strategy is embodied in Neighborhood Watch program, which has been a cornerstone of community involvement in several areas of the city for decades. In fact, Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King held a community crime forum last week that doubled as a Neighborhood Watch event.
Unfortunately, Killeen’s identity as a military community has a tendency to work against the Neighborhood Watch concept. With frequent deployments and relocation to other Army posts, military families don’t always have the opportunity to get to know their neighbors as well as they’d like.
Also, when both spouses work — whether they’re military or civilian — their jobs often take them away from home for much of the day, making it difficult to keep an eye on activity in the neighborhood.
Still, we can make a difference.
Last Sunday, the Herald published the first in a series of articles designed to bring the issue of crime into focus — and get the conversation started on what we as residents can do about it.
We looked at the city’s physical characteristics, sorted through Killeen’s crime statistics and talked to residents about their personal experiences.
That last piece is important, because each crime number represents some of our neighbors who have been victims of criminal acts. Whether the crime is a car burglary, a home burglary, theft or a violent crime such as aggravated assault or armed robbery, our entire community suffers the loss.
We all have a vested interest in reducing crime — in every area of the city.
Crime can serve as a deterrent to businesses considering locating here. It can raise insurance rates for homeowners and commercial property owners.
It can also erode residents’ sense of safety and security — and that can be difficult to restore, especially for those who have been a crime victim.
As previous Herald news accounts have detailed, reports of crime in some categories are spread across a wide area of the city — not relegated to one precinct or subdivision,
In short, whether the crime numbers are encouraging or concerning, we’re all in this together.
This is an ethnically diverse community — both in terms of its leadership and its residents.
As we look for answers to the crime problem, there can be no tolerance for slights or slurs directed at any segment of our community’s population. Those who seek to divide our city and its residents can only serve as an impediment to finding solutions.
Certainly, there are no easy fixes. though Kimble and his department are to be commended for their successful efforts to date.
However, it’s important to recognize that residents must play a major role in keeping the city’s crime rate on a downward path
As former Killeen Police Chief Rick Miller stated in a letter to the editor last fall, “a major portion of crime control falls back on the individual citizen, taking those steps necessary to protect himself or herself: locking the house and car; permanently marking valuables so as to thwart theft; cooperating with the police as a victim or witness; willingly serving jury duty; becoming involved in community programs to reduce crime; watching out for your neighbors.”
These are all good steps that will continue to pay dividends in the long term.
In the meantime, we need to talk — both with each other and with our public servants.
We’d like to ask you to share your experiences with us.
Send an email with your contact information a description of your concerns and how you cope with them, as well as how its affects your quality of life. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put KILLEEN CRIME in the subject line.
The more residents who participate in the conversation, the better we can understand how to curb crime, enhance our sense of community and move our city forward.
Certainly, crime is a community problem — and this is our community.
Let’s do whatever we can to make it safer.