Missouri City police department is reporting a decline in crimes against citizens in 2009. Here’s the official press release-(Courtesy of the City of Missouri City/www.missouricitytx.gov):
Crimes Against Missouri City Citizens Decline in 2009
Initiating strategic programs and building community partnerships, Missouri City’s nationally-recognized Police Department has curtailed crime over the past year to keep the “Show Me City” one of the safest places in the nation.
The Department’s public safety initiatives were so effective that six of the eight worst felonies, classified as Part 1 crimes, dropped double digits. From 2008 to 2009, murders fell by half—from 4 to 2, rapes fell 26 percent—from 23 to 17, robbery was down 10 percent—from 101 to 90, aggravated assaults were down from 87 to 64, vehicle thefts dropped from 100 to 66 and arsons from 17 to 11.
However, due to the sluggish economy, Part 1 crimes increased overall by 3 percent because of an increase in two felonies—burglary and theft. Burglaries jumped 17 percent from 334 to 391 and thefts increased by 9 percent from 891 to 972.
“In times of economic downturn, historically crimes against property go up,” explained Capt. John Bailey, whose Support Services Division tracks crime figures for the Missouri City Police Department. More importantly, Bailey noted that though crimes against property have risen, crimes against citizens have dropped.
The surge in major offenses, combined with all other unlawful acts committed in the City, slightly pushed overall crime up 2.39 percent over the last year, from 4,479 offenses in 2008 to 4,586 in 2009. The figures, which will be reported to the Texas Department of Public Safety later this year, are reflective of how cities nationwide are struggling from the economic crisis.
“Overall, major violent crime in the City is down and our officers are doing a superb job protecting the citizens,” Chief Joel Fitzgerald said. “Our officers have a real love for and commitment to the community and they do a great job of making sure residents feel safe and are serviced quickly.”
Other vital crime data collected over the last year includes these facts: the crime rate per 1,000 residents increased incrementally over the last year, going from 23.25 per 1,000 people in 2008, to 23.72 per 1,000 people in 2009. And though there have been high- and low-crime periods over the past five years, overall crime has decreased 5.23 percent from 2005 to 2009.
It is important to note that Missouri City is unique in its transparent reporting of crime figures. Using Incident Based Reporting (IBR), police officials record all crimes related to an incident. For example, if mailboxes on an entire neighborhood block were to be vandalized, Missouri City would report each as a separate crime under IBR standards. The method is quite different from other Fort Bend County agencies that only use Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) method that counts these offenses as one incident. The IBR method provides an accurate composite of crime that occurs within a jurisdiction; IBR accounts for why Missouri City is able to provide greater statistical insight into all criminal offenses. Other regional police departments that use IBR are Pearland, Katy, Deer Park, Tomball and Galveston.
Fitzgerald said the department is quick to respond to residents’ calls for assistance, helping to maintain the City’s strong stance against crime. Departmental figures for 2009 show that officers responded to Priority 1 calls, ie., emergency calls for service, in less than 4 minutes. That timeframe grew marginally by 3 seconds from the previous year, given the ever-increasing volume of traffic police officers must navigate when driving to call locations.
The department’s proactive policing programs have strengthened the force internally and externally, building on the strong bond between the people and their police. For instance, 1,000 fewer calls for service came into the department last year, and a major factor in the drop is a new Homeowner’s Association program that “allows residents to have personal interaction with police at the community level,” Fitzgerald said. “We assigned supervisors to the HOAs around the City, which built in consistency and accountability,” he explained, adding “that decision allowed us to mitigate some of the calls we get because the officers directly answer residents and establish their own strategies to address problems in their areas. Their effectiveness is evident; they educate citizens and involve other City departments so they don’t have to call 911.”
Another strategic departmental achievement last year was officers’ coordinated response to an increase in the thefts from motor vehicles and motor-vehicle parts from June to December. Fitzgerald said his staff analysts identified an emerging trend in this category and organized a series of stings to combat the crimes, cutting the incidence of crime from a high of 60 in October to 19 in December, normally a high-crime month.
Additional bike patrols have also been dispatched in neighborhoods, shopping centers and commercial areas to deter crime and Fitzgerald said he envisions having more of these patrols on a steady day- and evening shift, to further “foster a spirit of unity between all stakeholders.”
Other innovative measures the department has recently employed include the use of new software to identify patterns to predict crimes; increased communication to the officers in the form of specific intelligence about the areas they patrol; intensified efforts to distribute photos of suspects; and continuing participation in meetings with police chiefs from neighboring communities to exchange ideas and discuss crime trends. Chief Fitzgerald will provide more information about these measures and discuss the 2009 crime figures in a City Council presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Meanwhile, Missouri City’s finest are moving forward with some bold ideas this year. Fitzgerald says the department is “working to put a “Missouri City’s Most Wanted” online and is already in the process of launching a crime tip line. Also, we’ve even been working in elementary schools to deliver the Anti-Gun/Drug/Violence message early to youngsters.”