Progress Made...Vision for the Future
Since being elected, I have striven to build upon the good reputation and service people have come to expect from Precinct 8. I am constantly searching for ways to enhance that service and routinely seek input from my employees as well as the community in order to accomplish this. My approach to leadership has been to set goals and develop long term plans to achieve them. I feel it is important to implement change in a strategic and methodical way, prioritizing the goals and then implementing them in a fiscally responsible way as we move forward.
Over the course of my first term, I have been fortunate to be able to reach many of these goals and as a result, I believe Precinct 8 is better able to serve this community. Here is some of what we have been able to accomplish in a few short years.
We now have many more Deputies patrolling the streets of the precinct than we did when I took office in 2011. Our calls for service have continued to increase and the boost in manpower has allowed us to respond to these calls more quickly and more efficiently. Additional Deputies patrolling our area has resulted in increased law enforcement that has had a positive impact on the safety of our citizens. For example, in the last two years alone, our Deputies have been responsible for a 200% increase in arrests for DWI offenses.
One of my first goals as Constable was to establish a K-9 program. We obtained our first K-9 in 2012 and have had much success to date. This added tool has accounted for an enormous amount of drugs and contraband being taken off the streets of our community. The program has been, and continues to be, self-sustaining through the seizure of money and property from the criminals we have arrested. The program has been so successful that in 2015, I added a second K-9 to our patrol division. I am very pleased with the development of this program not just for Precinct 8, but for the surrounding agencies who call on our K-9 units to assist them as well.
Precinct 8 Deputies wore the same style uniform and drove cars with decal designs that had been in place since the early 1980's. Another one of my first goals was to update both in an effort to project the image of a progressive and professional looking law enforcement agency. With input from the staff, we underwent a complete makeover in 2012. The feedback from the community has been very positive and I am pleased with the new look. To me, the change is not just a cosmetic one. The update of the uniform and decals helped set the stage for what was to come; a meaningful change that I hoped would inspire the men and women of Precinct 8 to build on our reputation and to do so with the same professionalism that is expected of them. A professional new look was symbolic of that first step towards a more progressive law enforcement approach.
Tools and Equipment
In all aspects of law enforcement, it is important to have the tools necessary to do the job effectively. Over the last four years, I have made it a priority to properly equip Deputies with vital equipment such as enhanced patrol cars, computers, fingerprint scanners, TASERs, body armor, digital in-car cameras and still cameras, GPS devices and other equipment. Having these tools enable Deputies to accomplish the task of keeping our community safer while enhancing their safety as well.
Base of Operation
Since the 1970's, the Patrol, Warrant and Communications Divisions of Precinct 8 operated out of a small office within the Bay Area Annex in Clear Lake. As the department grew, the space became increasingly inadequate and did not provide the most efficient layout to meet the needs of the staff nor the public. Over the past few years, I have worked closely with other county officials to transform the vacant space that was once occupied by the Freeman Library for use by Precinct 8. In April, we moved our Clear Lake operations into the new facility. We now have an adequate and well thought out building from which to operate. Not only is it more secure, but it offers the necessary space for conducting training for our Deputies as well as gives us space to host community outreach programs as well.
Proper and relevant training is key in the law enforcement profession. Our world is ever changing and I feel it is important to provide the training necessary to stay sharp and to provide the best service we can as an agency. In the past four years, I have increased the amount of training we provide to the staff of Precinct 8. As a TCOLE sanctioned training provider, Precinct 8 has instructors who are certified and capable of teaching numerous law enforcement courses. Thanks to our new facility, we also have the space to invite officers from surrounding agencies in to attend these training sessions as well. We are now providing more training than ever before in the history of the department.
Accident Reconstruction Team
Precinct 8 has had traffic accident reconstructionists on staff for several years. Since taking office, I made it a priority to grow this team of experts and to provide them with the tools necessary to do the job more effectively. As a result, the Precinct 8 Accident Reconstruction team is now among the best in Harris County and is often called upon by other agencies to investigate or assist in investigating traffic accidents involving death or serious bodily injury. This team trains on an ongoing basis to keep their skills sharp and are ready to respond at any time.
With the increased demand for our law enforcement services, the need for additional follow-up investigation has continued to grow. In the past, follow-up investigations were the responsibility of the Patrol Deputy who answered the call for service and the investigative aspect of cases is often quite time consuming. Due to this need, I have appointed a full-time investigator whose primary job is to conduct follow-up investigation of crimes such as burglaries, robberies, thefts and criminal mischief to name a few. This added resource allows the Patrol Deputy to spend more time on the streets and less time conducting investigations. This has proven to be quite successful thus far.
Time Management and Data Sharing
Under my command, I have implemented several methods of increasing the amount of time Deputies spend on the streets and less time in the office. One such example is the creation of an intranet site accessible only to our staff. This allows for the nearly real-time sharing of information for things such as safety alerts, crime tips, wanted persons, etc. Deputies have the ability to access this information from their in-car computers and it has decreased the amount of time they spend in the office for briefings and shift roll call sessions. This equates to more time actively patrolling our streets and they are doing so with enhanced data sharing capabilities.
I recognize that we are not alone when combating crime. My focus is on finding ways to engage the community and have tried to open the lines of communication between this office and those we serve. As a result, we have a better than ever relationship with the community and often we are able to stop crimes before they happen thanks to the watchful eyes of area citizens who now understand the importance of "see something, say something". Some of the methods we now use include a department Facebook page and a Nextdoor account. In addition, the Precinct 8 website allows citizens the ability to report crime and request such things as vacation watches and extra patrols.
Law Enforcement Partnerships
The lines of communication don't stop with the community. One of my ongoing goals is to engage other law enforcement agencies in discussions about better ways to collaborate and join our efforts. While we've always had good working relationships with other area law enforcement agencies, today we are working more closely together and our partnerships are better and stronger than ever before.
Community Oriented Policing
I am a firm believer in community policing. One aspect of this approach is providing high visibility patrols within the neighborhoods we serve. Since taking office, I have implemented methods of increasing that visibility throughout the precinct. People are often amazed when I tell them the number of Patrol Deputies we actually have. While our force is larger than it was 4 years ago, it is still smaller than the public perceives. Many citizens comment on seeing our Deputies patrolling regularly in their own neighborhoods and the perception is that we are much larger than we actually are. Crime is often deterred simply through active patrolling, which is the goal of this approach. I don't ever want to become a reactive type of agency. Being proactive is the driving theme of my approach and I believe it is why we have had such success in keeping crime rates low in our precinct.
I am first and foremost a fiscal conservative. I do not believe that having a bigger budget equates to more capabilities for doing the job. I have managed to increase manpower, enhance equipment, upgrade our aging facilities and implement new plans and programs while staying well within my allotted budget. In fact, over the last four years, I have ended each year with a budget surplus. That surplus has grown to over 1 million dollars and I vow to continue exercising that kind of fiscal responsibility.