Monday, September 10, 2007

Public invited to anti-crime meeting

Public invited to anti-crime meeting
By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun

Published September 10, 2007
After weeks of combing through questions and comments from Baytonians irked by increasing crime in the area, the Baytown Concerned Citizens are poised to receive some answers tonight from city officials and the Baytown Police Department.

Police Chief Byron Jones, Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and new city manager Garry Brumback will all be on hand to address citizens and answer questions culled from an August meeting at El Toro, which drew more than 70 people. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Baytown Community Center, 2407 Market St. The meeting was originally slated for a smaller room, but organizers to have a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people in the new venue.

Bert Marshall, one of the group’s leaders, said he hopes to get the meeting televised on Comcast Channel 16 for local citizens who can’t attend. Marshall said the explosion of interest in the organization has been “miraculous.” The group’s Web site, www.hotpursuit.com, has more than 560 subscribers, and Marshall said more are signing on every day.

“I’ve been fooling around with Web sites and mailing lists for 15 years, and I’ve never seen this kind of growth,” Marshall said. “As we get rolling on the neighborhood watch programs, the site will accommodate all those.”

Marshall said BCC will demand honest answers from those accountable, but he said the meeting will not be about assigning blame.

“We don’t care how we got here. What we care about it how to get us out of here,” Marshall said. “If there have been problems at City Hall or the police department, we don’t care about it. We want to fix it. We’re not going for a long-term score, we just want to get the ball rolling. We’ve done it in the most civil way possible, but we really do need some answers.”

Among the issues that will be brought up include addressing hotspots such as Northwood Drive and Village Lane, as well as truck stops along Interstate 10, and whether the upcoming $82.5 million bond proposal would allow for enough resources to fight crime in the future. Other questions include how the department will continue to fill vacancies, how to get businesses involved with getting rid of crime on their properties, and how the police department might better enforce youth curfew laws.

Marshall said one of the big issues will be the eradication of illegal drugs from neighborhoods and schools. Marshall said those drugs have been at the root of much of the city’s crime troubles, and he looks forward to a time when they can be taken off the streets.

“Once we push these dope peddlers out of town, they’re going to dry up from our schools,” Marshall said. “It’s getting into the junior highs, and even younger. We’re going to get the dope out of this town. It’s going to be something amazing to behold.”

The Baytown Crime Prevention Unit will have booths set up to allow citizens to find out how they can help fight crime and make the area safer. Marshall said he encourages people from Highlands and Mont Belvieu to get involved with the group.

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