Engage D2: A quick update on crime in our community, what our city is doing about it, and how we can help continue to reduce our overall crime rate.

I know that there is genuine concern about crime in our city and neighborhoods.   I reached out today to our police department for information on what they are seeing and entered into a discussion with Deputy Chief Scott Fletcher who serves as the Criminal Investigation Bureau Commander for the Denton Police Department.

From the discussion with Deputy Chief Fletcher it is my understanding that we are seeing reported crime incident counts fluctuate up and down across the various categories of reported crime (see table below).  While we are seeing increases in the total number of reported incidents, our per capita crime rate is not increasing.  This is a result of our population growth.  Having more people leads to more crime, but does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in our overall crime rate.

Summary of Crime Year to Date:

  • Overall crime rate is down 3%
  • The geographic distribution of our crimes is fairly well spread out across the city.
  • We have seen an increase in activity in and around the downtown area, but that has not equated to a significant increase in major criminal offenses in the same area.
  • The majority of our reported crime continues to be tied to apartment complexes and other multi-family settings, particularly in the categories of residential and vehicle burglaries

We are Reinforcing our Police Force:  Over the past four fiscal years Denton has added to the roster of sworn police officers.  I would like to highlight that in the 2016-2017 fiscal year we have added seven sworn officers – almost as many as were added (8) in the previous three fiscal years combined.  We are scaling our force up as our population grows.

FY 13-14
4 police officers

3 police officers

1 police sergeant

1 police lieutenant
4 police officers
2 motorcycle officers

So What Else Can We Do?: There are a couple of things that we can do as a community to help with crime issues as Denton continues to grow.

1) Increase Police Visibility
In general, a highly visible police presence tends to both deter potential criminal activity and increase the citizen’s perception of safety. For example, having officers seen in high traffic shopping areas around the holidays, officers out making traffic stops at night around bars and on holidays, or officers out on foot and bicycle in pedestrian areas like the Downtown Square or Fry Street. As we increase in both population and square mileage, additional officers are necessary to maintain the desired level of visibility while still answering calls for service.

2) Public Education and Awareness
We can make some of the greatest impacts to crime in our community by changing the way we as citizens view crime within the community. According to Deputy Chief Fletcher a significant number of our crimes in Denton are directly related to victim behaviors. That’s not to blame the victim.  But getting people to understand that we have real criminals in town who are looking for opportunities to commit crimes is important. Much of the problem is tied to the fact that until we are a victim, or someone we are close to is a victim, many of us don’t really think about crime or the criminals around us. Here are some things Deputy Chief Fletcher recommends that we as individuals can do to help reduce the chances that we are victimized:

  • Locking our cars and taking/hiding our valuables. Roughly 90% of our vehicle burglaries involve high-theft items left in plain view inside a vehicle. The majority of these vehicles are also left unlocked.
  • Locking our doors and windows at home. In many of our residential burglaries, doors and windows are left open and/or unlocked. It also helps to leave lights on timers and to know our neighbors.
  • Locking our cars at the store. People still pull up to convenience stores and go inside while leaving their car unlocked and running.
  • In our student resident apartments, many of the residents routinely leave the front door unlocked, presenting no challenge to strangers who walk in.
  • Recognizing scams and remembering that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are a host of scams that routinely victimize people – particularly the elderly.
  • Controlling alcohol consumption. A large percentage of our assaults and sexual assaults involve victims who voluntarily consume a high quantity of alcohol. Add to this the fact that many of these victims are either alone or are with others who are equally intoxicated, and there are a number of potential negative consequences.
  • Report crimes and suspicious activities to the police department.   The police can’t solve crimes they don’t know about.  Filed reports are also used to help our police understand where and when to increase their presence.

This information may offer little solace to anyone who has been a victim of crime or to any of us who have called Denton home for some time and feel that our community is changing in negative ways.  There will always be a percentage of crimes that our police cannot prevent or deter. But if we increase our awareness, change some of our personal behaviors, and put our officers in key strategic areas, we can continue to have a positive impact on our crime rate as a community.

This is a good community full of good people.  Get to know each other and keep looking out for one another.

I hope this information is helpful.  Please let me know if you have any immediate questions.  As always, I am here to serve you.

Your humble representative,

Keely G. Briggs
Council Member District 2
City of Denton, Texas
(940) 453-8596