San Marcos Police Department Chief Howard Williams. File photo.
By ANDY SEVILLA
An increase in crime — including rapes, robberies, property crimes and thefts — has plagued San Marcos from the same time a year ago, though police say the city is still “safe”.
Rapes increased from one to six in the first quarter of 2010 compared with the first quarter of 2009, putting the city back into its usual range.
“These numbers are not bad numbers,” said San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) Chief Howard Williams. “Am I satisfied? Oh, no. Because we need to do better.”
Williams said that in 2009 there were about six to eight rapes all year, whereas, in 2008, there were about 24.
“(Last year, 2009) was a remarkable year,” Williams said. “I don’t know what happened that year, and, of course, we want that trend to continue. Unfortunately, the numbers were seeing now kind of bring us up to the norm. There were six rapes in the first quarter of the year and that’s unacceptable.”
Williams said most rapes in 2010 have been date rapes, and that police are “going to have to find a way to deal with that.”
Robberies against persons also increased from eight to 13 in the same reporting period. Aggravated assaults, however, decreased from 36 to 26.
“(Robberies against persons) are very small numbers here,” Williams said. “It’s really not that bad, but the people of San Marcos are accustomed to a very nice safe city … San Marcos continues to be a very safe place to live.”
Crimes against property also increased by more than 18 percent, with the biggest jump coming from auto burglaries.
“Burglaries of autos have risen tremendously,” Williams said. “It’s a big problem all up and down the (Interstate-35) corridor.”
Thefts are up in in the first quarter of 2010 to 307 from 243 in the first quarter of 2009. Auto thefts are up from 15 in the first quarter of 2009 to 18 in the first quarter of 2010. Burglaries went down from 69 to 62.
Councilmember John Thomaides asked why there is an increase in crime in San Marcos when SMPD has received increases in salary, resources, and police officers. Thomaides pressed Williams further and asked what procedures SMPD was taking to reduce property crime in the community.
Williams said the SMPD is working with area pawn shops in to identify stolen property, and plain clothed officers are out patrolling. Williams also said officers are using unmarked cars in efforts to catch illicit behavior.
Williams pointed out that SMPD has added an extra crime prevention officer, bringing the number up to two, to help educate the public against leaving property in vehicles.
“Are we being successful?” Thomaides asked.
Said Williams, “Obviously, we’re not, councilman. The numbers show that.”
Councilmember Kim Porterfield pointed out the difficulty in dealing with property crimes because, she said, they often occur at night and the culprits quickly grab the property and go.
“It is remarkable what people leave in their cars in plain view,” Porterfield said.
Williams said the San Marcos population has grown since last year and the economic downturn has exacerbated concerns, which, he said, adds to the increase in crime.
Williams cautioned against drawing conclusions from the numbers representative of only three months in a year. He said crime is never linear and that an increase in a certain time doesn’t guarantee or foreshadow an increase in the upcoming days.
However, Williams said, there are more officers on the street doing proactive work, as opposed to running from call to call as in times past.
“Council has done an exceptionally good job of giving us what we need to do our job,” Williams said about Thomaides’ reference to the police officers’ higher pay and increase in the number of officers and resources available.
The biggest decrease came in noise violations with a drop of almost 19 percent compared to the figures from the first quarter of 2009. Williams said they’re may be a link to the city’s move toward later bar hours, which occurred last May.
“I don’t know that there’s a connection I can prove,” Williams said, though he suggested that bar patrons going home at 2 a.m. “is having an effect” on the outcome. He said residents leaving bars at a later hour are less prone to have parties lasting until 4 a.m., as was an often occurrence when bars in San Marcos closed at midnight.
Williams also said that apartment managers and Texas State have played a role in reducing noise violations, but he cautioned that “we’re never going to totally get rid of loud noise complaints.”
SMPD makes information regarding violations available online at www.myneighborhoodupdate.net, where San Marcos residents can specifically look up crime in their neighborhoods and surrounding areas.