The San Marcos Police Department must find ways to ensure that safety is maintained within the community amid a recent spike in the city’s historically low violent crime rate.
A violent crime like a stabbing or a hit-and-run may come as a shock to many residents in a relatively peaceful town. Three residents were injured Sept. 2 in a hit-and-run in downtown San Marcos, and a stabbing took place Feb. 3 resulting in the death of a man at an Allen Street party. It should be a priority for SMPD officials to amplify and ensure residents’ sense of security, with special regard for these recent events.
Despite these events, San Marcos is relatively safe when compared to Texas’ statistics as a whole. In a 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek article, San Marcos was named the best place to raise children in Texas. In addition, a report on NeighborhoodScout lists San Marcos below the national and statewide average in violent crime per 1,000 residents. The information stated that for every 1,000 residents in the city, an estimated 43 people are crime victims. San Marcos residents have a 1-in-281 chance of becoming a victim of violent crime, according to the report.
Howard Williams, San Marcos police chief, said in a Jan. 31 University Star article the most common call made to SMPD last year dealt with noise complaints about loud parties. The first- and second-highest number of reported events in the past year involved disorder and traffic matters respectively, according to crime statistics on the City of San Marcos website. These issues do not require the same attention as violent crimes, and therefore help drive down the operating costs of the local police department.
SMPD received 76,501 calls in fiscal year 2012, and the department spends almost $12 million on police calls each year, according to the same University Star article. Five cities with a higher cost per call for service include College Station, Denton, Austin, Round Rock and Temple. San Marcos’ low violent crime rate in comparison with the rest of the state is part of the reason why SMPD spends comparatively less than nearby cities on call responses. But history should not justify current city budgets. The city should consider applying a more proportional appropriation of police department monies based on criminal incidences and general fund budgets of nearby cities, such as New Braunfels, to effectively prevent crime.
SMPD might also consider putting more active police officers out on the streets of San Marcos during peak traffic or barhopping hours to make the community feel safer. The presence of more officers may increase the number of traffic citations given to drivers. It could help reduce accidents like hit-and-runs.
The city could also put forth efforts to revamp other local safety aspects instead of just rehabilitating SMPD’s public image by heightening security and highlighting accomplishments of the department. The city should look into installing more streetlights and sidewalks along roadways. In addition, a 2012 Landscape and Urban Planning study on ScienceDirect found that if more trees are present in neighborhoods, less crime tends to be committed there. This study was conducted in Baltimore, one of the most dangerous cities in America according to an Aug. 22, 2012 Al Jazeera article. The study indicated a staggering difference in crime between streets and adjoining neighborhoods because of canopy tree cover. The safety of the community can be greatly increased through the implementation of better infrastructure and vegetation overall.
SMPD officials should bring a sense of safety and confidence back to anxious residents in light of recent violent crime occurrences. This can be accomplished through an increased police presence, the addition of new structural and vegetation amenities and a better-organized police budget.