Regional issues, local growth factor into crime-fighting

In News by Reporter News

Noted for the city’s low crime rate despite being in the shadow of Houston, Friendswood Police Department doesn’t have much time to rest on its accomplishments.

“There are some real pressures that are out there,” Police Chief Bob Weiners said during a department report to City Council April 6.

The most troubling details for Friendswood are geographic. For one, there are more prescription pills being distributed in Harris County and the greater Houston area than any other place on the Gulf Coast, Weiners said.

“Of really noteworthy concern is the amount of methamphetamine that’s coming in to the area,” he said. “It’s manufactured south of the border, shipped along major highways and then distributed up and down I-45.”

“This is an issue we are dealing with in its early stages, and it has the attention of law enforcement throughout the Houston-Galveston area,” he said.

Measured on a federal scale of crimes per 1,000 residents, Friendswood has the lowest crime rate in the Greater Houston area, and is now at its lowest in Chief Weiners’ tenure, he said.

Despite its population increases, the city had fewer incidents in 2014 than it did in the year 1977 – something he attributed to planning. And although some voice concern over new developments along FM 528, Weiners said police will continue the same type of planning that has proven successful in the past.

“If something is built, we’ll police it,” he said. “We’ve shown we can handle growth and development in this city in the last 35 years.”

About 18 percent of arrests made in Friendswood are Houston residents.

“Our own Friendswood number is about 30 percent,” he said.

Local law breakers are what you might expect out of a bedroom community: Driving while intoxicated and domestic violence.

There are various types of policing “models” for communities, he said, which include “community policing” made popular in the 1990s with programs such as Neighborhood Watch.

“There’s good components of it, and we’ve kept some in place,” he said.

As police departments have automated and technology has advanced, “problem-oriented” policing has emerged.

“Intelligence-led policing is about getting out there and disrupting criminal activity and elements before they can expose a city to episodes of crime,” he said.

A 2013 citizen survey showed 97 percent of residents felt safe or very safe in their community.

“I think we’ve got the right mix of policing models and components in place,” Weiners said.

A major challenge going forward, he said, is organized criminal activity in the region.

“The FBI has decided to increase staffing in the Houston area due to a large number of bank robberies and the number of violent robberies of community establishments,” he said. “What you’re seeing is acknowledgement on the federal side that the numbers of organized criminal activity in the Houston area is beginning to be a concern.”

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