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Crime down; DES credits caring environment

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham, Sentinel News Editor
June 24, 2010 | News
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Walker Village is one of many housing areas on Fort Hood where residents are taking pride in the place they live. Staff Sgt. Terry Saffron, Sentinel Staff Photographer
For the third straight year, crime rates on Fort Hood have dropped, according to the Directorate of Emergency Services annual crime summary.

Crime was down two percent overall in 2009 from 2008, a continuation of a three-year trend in decreasing crime on the installation, Ricky Rounds, chief, Police Intelligence Division, DES, said.

Military offenses, drug crimes, property crimes and crimes against persons showed significant drops on Fort Hood.

Traffic offenses and misconducts show slight rises in 2009 over the previous year. Rounds said traffic offenses are the most preventable crimes committed on the installation. Aggressive drivers and those talking on cell phones are the most prevalent offenders.

“Be more courteous,” he said.

Fort Hood ranks second to rural Coryell County for having the lowest crime rates in the surrounding area.

“Our crime rates are comparable to rural Midwest areas of the nation,” Rounds said. “The crime rate is sustainably low.”

Police credit the command emphasis on crime prevention and the fact that appropriate actions are being taken against offenders.

“We have proactive command on this installation,” Rounds said.

Criminal acts are investigated and offenders are punished.

The downturn in crime started about three years ago.

Rounds credits Col. Bill Hill, garrison commander, with engaging Fort Hood leadership, Soldiers and families to take pride in this installation and lower crime rates.

Through initiatives such as Phantom Pride and holding offenders accountable for their actions, Fort Hood Soldiers, families and civilians have more invested in Fort Hood and take better care of the installation.

Rounds calls it the “broken windows paradigm,” which follows the idea that if an area is broken down and dirty and no one cares then crime will follow. But, if its residents keep an area clean and well-kept they have more invested in that environment and will not allow criminal activity to occur there. People care more so they take better care of where they live and work. This is what police believe has happened at Fort Hood.

“Remarkable improvements in appearances have helped drive crime rates down,” Rounds said.

Fort Hood law enforcement has spread that sentiment to the surrounding areas where Fort Hood or its families and Soldiers are involved.

“We’ve been proactive with surrounding communities,” Capt. Jonathan Caylor, public information officer for Fort Hood DES, said. “This helps create a safe environment.”

Fort Hood officials have utilized liaison work and reciprocal help from surrounding agencies to create that environment.

Administratively, there has been a resurgence of the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, a committee that reviews businesses and agencies and seeks to remedy disputes or issues that have caused concern for Soldiers or their well-being. The board serves as a bridge between the garrison commander and area law enforcement.

“The board can take administrative actions taken where police might not be able to,” Rounds said.

On post, engaged command has set the tone to keep crime down.

In the barracks, simple assaults and petty thefts are down, as well as more serious offenses.

“The important thing is that serious assaults are down dramatically,” Rounds said.

Command influence, proactive charge-of-quarters staff and staff duty officers are crucial to preventing crime in the barracks. Involved leadership and staff within the barracks establish an environment intolerant of criminal activity.

“If a unit has an active crime prevention program, their barracks are not conducive to criminal behavior,” Rounds said.

In Fort Hood Family Housing, officials and residents have created environments not conducive to criminal activity.

Police have expanded the Community Policing Branch with regular patrols through housing areas and increased bike patrols that allow more person-to-person contact between officers and residents.

The House Watch Program is available for those who go on vacation or will be away. For housing residents who complete a form at DES before leaving on vacation, DES will routinely check the residence during their absence.

Neighborhood Watch programs are started or currently running in every post housing community.

In addition, units are now sponsors of the post housing villages. In each area, a senior command-level (Colonel) has direct influence over housing and a Community Life Noncommissioned Officer program is in place in the communities to run all housing villages

“Community Life NCOS are embedded in the housing areas,” Caylor said.

Community Life NCOS oversee such things as code enforcement and keeping the areas clean and picked up, which is a deterrent to criminals.

Areas that formerly were run down or had obvious damage are cleaned up and residents are taking an active role in their housing areas.

“When you drive down the streets and it’s much cleaner, there is less crime,” Rounds said.

Law enforcement officials have crime trends and statistics to back up the drop in crime, and when they see a pattern develop they react.

“We routinely monitor crime trends and can adjust to focus on certain areas, times,” Rounds said.

Focused patrols through housing and crime advisories issued through DES are used to stop any criminal patterns and alert residents to potential trouble. Those advisories are focused on the villages and areas where the trend or activity is occurring.

The biggest obstacle for DES when fighting crime can be perceptions which can often create misinformation about criminal activity or patterns occurring in a housing area or barracks building. Officials are willing to respond to inquiries or alleviate apprehensions Soldiers or family members might have.

“We are more than happy to address questions and concerns to Community Life NCOs, village mayors and Town Halls,” Round said.
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