San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 16th, 2009
Williams asks for vigilance at public meeting

San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams (center) talks with citizens and police officers about public safety at last Friday’s police outreach meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams tried to re-assure local residents about the city’s safety at a community meeting last Friday night, but he also asked that San Marcians tip off the cops about drug dealing.

Despite the four shootings in the city since Aug. 26, Williams said San Marcos is becoming a safer place and has a lower crime rate than comparable cities.

Of the recent spate of shootings, Williams said, every incident involved armed individuals invading a dwelling. Williams said the residents of the last three invaded dwellings were selling illegal drugs.

“The term ‘home invasion/robbery’ kind of gets thrown out there — we might have even used it ourselves — it’s probably a bad choice of words,” Williams said of the last three incidents. “‘Home invasion/robbery’ tends to make you believe you’re just sitting there watching television, and suddenly somebody breaks into your living room, ties you up, takes your TV and all your jewelry. This is not what happened. These were not honest citizens who were being invaded. These were dope dealers, plain and simple. There really weren’t any good guys involved. That sounds kinds of cruel, but it wasn’t innocent citizens that were being robbed.”

An attendee replied, “It doesn’t sound cruel to me. It’s just a fact.”

About five police officers and five civilians — including two members of the press — attended the community meeting last Friday night at Solid Rock Church on Hunter Road. The room was large enough to seat 200 people.

Upright wooden crosses and several pieces of religious literature were placed on every table before the event. Brochures near the front door included Williams’ PowerPoint slides and a statement of thanks on behalf of the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) to Pastor Mike Schlimgen and the congregation for hosting the meeting.

Williams told attendees it was not until after each of the shooting incidents that his department became aware that residents of the last three invaded dwellings were selling illegal drugs. Williams said greater intelligence-gathering capability on the part of his department  — not more officers — might have prevented the last three incidents. Williams said the city added 12 new officer positions in the last two years.

“The city has taken care of us,” Williams said. “We could have had twice as many officers on the streets on those given nights and it wouldn’t have had an effect on the outcomes.”

Williams said his department will designate a community liaison officer charged with informing neighborhood groups about measures residents can take to better protect their persons and property. Williams said the officer will offer crime prevention advice to all residents who file police reports.

Williams said his department will beef up its intelligence-gathering capability to apprehend individuals involved with illegal drugs, but he declined to give further details.

“We have some tactical things we want to do,” Williams said. “We have some procedural things we want to do. One of the messages we really want to get out is, we need people in San Marcos to call us and tell us if they think somebody in their neighborhood is dealing drugs. You can call us — you don’t have to give us your name. Just tell us what’s going on and where, and let us deal with it from there. That doesn’t mean we’re going to rush right out and throw somebody in jail just because you make an anonymous phone call. Obviously, we have to investigate it and see if we have a case. What we really need is 54,000 sets of eyes out there in San Marcos kind of paying attention to that and letting us know, so perhaps we can do something about it before things degenerate and these kinds of things happen.”

Williams said data his office compiled from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates violent crime in San Marcos declined in 2005 and 2008. Williams said the projected crime rate for 2009 is lower than the rate for 2008.

One attendee noted that such statistics are based on reported crimes, not actual numbers of crimes, which Williams acknowledged. Williams urged residents to make sure they file police reports after they witness crimes.

Williams presented a graph in which San Marcos placed fifth place among seven comparable cities in terms of numbers of crimes reported in 2007, and lower than the state average. Williams said when the student population is taken into account, San Marcos actually placed last on the same list behind New Braunfels, Austin, Seguin, San Antonio, College Station and Huntsville.

Williams presented another graph in which San Marcos placed last among the same seven cities in terms of numbers of crimes reported in 2008, again lower than the state average.

Another graph Williams presented showed San Marcos crime rate trends lower than the state average every year since 2002. The same graph indicates San Marcos’ crime rate in 2008 was higher than the 2006 rate by less than five incidents per 1,000 people and slightly lower than 2007’s rate.

One attendee said the biggest complaint he encounters from residents of his neighborhood is that not enough officers are seen there on patrol. Williams said often more officers are deployed to the areas most in need of attention, like Sagewood.

Another attendee commented that it would be nice to have more officers who spoke Spanish. Williams replied that the meet and confer agreement with the San Marcos Police Officer’s Association (SMPOA), if passed Monday night, would allow him to hire more bilingual officers due to a provision allowing every fifth officer to be hired based on criteria besides merely highest test score. Williams said the meet and confer agreement also includes a second language pay incentive.

The first killing in San Marcos since January 2008 occurred on Aug. 26 and involved a resident shot in his apartment. The resident’s wife was present but was not harmed in the attack. Two men — one from Luling and another from San Marcos — were apprehended and are being charged with the murder. Williams said all the parties involved in the incident knew one another and the killer’s motive stemmed from a personal grievance.

The second killing happened on Sept. 4, involving four armed Luling teenagers who invaded a San Marcos home. A resident of the home shot three of the teenagers, two of whom died. Two of the teenagers were arrested, one of whom was charged with aggravated robbery.

The third invasion occurred Oct. 20, when two armed San Antonio men entered a San Marcos apartment and fled after shooting a resident. Another resident and five visitors were present at the time of the shooting. Two men were later arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

The fourth shooting incident, which occurred on Oct. 21, involved an individual armed with a BB gun who was shot several times after invading a San Marcos home. An individual with three gunshot wounds sustained on the night of the invasion was arrested and charged with burglary of a habituation with intent to commit another felony.

Williams said his officers apprehended suspects within 15 minutes of the last three incidents and within two or three hours of the first incident.

“The guys out there on the street and the detectives have done stellar work in dealing with these issues,” Williams said. “Nobody’s getting away with it. We’re grabbing them up pretty fast.”

SMPD has three more public meetings scheduled to address concerns. Following is the schedule:

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 7-9 p.m. – Holland Street Church of Christ, 205 East Holland Street.

Saturday, Nov. 21, 4-6 p.m. – Sinai Pentecostal Church, 208 Laredo Street.

Saturday, Dec. 5, 4-6 p.m. – San Marcos Community Church, 2200 SH 123.

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0 thoughts on “Williams asks for vigilance at public meeting

  1. Greater vigilance sounds like an opportunity for greater involvement with SMPD and CONA. Within hours of one of the shootings, I had a CONA rep email me to say that the neighbors had suspected drug dealing for some time.

    It would be great to have SMPD present at CONA meetings, even if Council does follow through with proposed plans to attempt to marginalize the organization.

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