Friday, October 12, 2007

City ratcheting up anti-crime efforts

By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun
Published October 12, 2007

City manager Garry Brumback said law enforcement has ramped up its efforts over the 45 days and that those efforts are paying off in fewer crimes. Brumback said citizens would soon see the difference.

“There has definitely been a change, but perception is a lag indicator,” Brumback said. “We need to get people better information, and we’re working on that.”

Brumback met Wednesday night with organizers of the Baytown Concerned Citizens. Also attending were Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and Police Chief Byron Jones.

The group was formed to help coordinate with the city and neighborhood watch programs to make citizens more aware of crime issues and come up with solutions to make Baytown safer. More than 700 people are now members of BCC’s web site, www.hotpursuit.com, which includes a message board discussing crime and interactive maps showing the location of crimes in the city, as well as a searchable database.

Bert Marshall presented a list of concerns brought up at a meeting at El Toro in July and a subsequent meeting last month at the Baytown Community Center to check on the progress of the Baytown Police Department and the City of Baytown and see how those concerns were being addressed.

One of the major items of discussion was safety at San Jacinto Mall and in shopping areas along Garth Road. Capt. Keith Dougherty, head of patrol for BPD, said patrols have been increased in the area, including specially commissioned four-wheelers and regular patrol cars. Chief Jones said during the holiday shopping season, an officer would be assigned Garth Road duty to monitor the increased traffic.

In addition, Mayor DonCarlos said the city is now working with local businesses to discuss ways to improve security. DonCarlos said the city also said many apartment complexes in the city are improperly lighted, leading to an environment more conducive to crime.

“The city is working on making sure apartment complexes are meeting lighting standards,” DonCarlos said. “And they need a certain amount of security. But I’m not at all convinced that all apartment complexes have adequate lighting.”

Marshall also said people are worried about the city’s enforcement of youth curfew violations. Jones said the city has written 50 tickets for curfew violations this year, though police officers often simply warn violators, and Dougherty said some juveniles are arrested for other charges if they are stopped on suspicion of being in violation.

“Curfew is just another tool we use to make Baytown safer,” Jones said. “It gives us the ability to question a kid who’s out at 2 a.m. if there’s no reason for a 13-year-old to be out that late.”

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