The San Marcos Police Department’s decision not to increase patrol officers in the downtown area runs contrary to the logic and comfort of residents and students.
According to a Sept. 12 University Star article, there have been nine vehicle-related deaths in San Marcos this year, five of which included pedestrians. That is almost double 2011’s total of five fatalities, three of which were pedestrian.
Despite this statistical jump, the recent hit-and-run that injured three pedestrians and another crash that left one person dead, SMPD is not increasing the amount of officers in the area.
“There is not a whole lot we can do,” said San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams in the Sept. 12 article. “It’s really hard for us to have any proactive effort to reduce the leaving-the-scene collisions.”
It is not the fault of police officers when students or residents of San Marcos drink and drive, or when pedestrians suddenly wander into a street in the path of an oncoming car. Personal responsibility cannot be overstated. However, increasing the amount of officers stationed in the downtown area could increase the chances that these dangerous activities are spotted and stopped before accidents occur.
One of the main functions of law enforcement should be to make a concerted effort to prevent crime. Williams’ comments make it seem like police officers are powerless against the potentially dangerous activities that occur in downtown San Marcos, and that should be worrisome to anyone spending time in the area. Simply having a noticeable police presence in the downtown area may be enough to give someone pause before driving drunk, or wandering into the middle of the street.
Having an attentive presence downtown will allow officers to spot jaywalking or notice when people emerge from bars looking unfit to drive and proactively work against that potential danger. That sort of attention and presence can only be achieved by having more officers present.
Texas State and San Marcos are only getting bigger, and the demographics of its population tend to gravitate toward the downtown area. The same police force that was able to adequately respond and prevent crime when the school’s population was lower and the city less developed cannot hope to sustain the same effectiveness in that area now.
SMPD officials said they will be increasing the number of officers patrolling during big events, such as the Texas Tech football game weekend. However, the problem expands beyond that game day and that weekend. A sustained increase in enforcement is the only thing that can adequately protect Bobcats and San Marcos residents.