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"Community Policing" Keeps Criminals Away

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A lookout would stand on the corner of Pepper Tree and Forestwood, watching for any police officers to come by, while the crimes would happen just down the road: assaults, prostitution and drug use, just to name a few.

So how does a part of town like this, with as much crime as there was a few months ago, go to having the lowest rate of Part 1 crimes (crimes against persons) in the entire city of Bryan?

For Bryan PD, it's called "community policing." They've met with property owners and residents regularly for the last few months, preaching to them how imperative a clean, cared-for community is in fighting crime.

"Our goal is to be a facilitator to bring community members, property owners and neighborhood residents together for the same common goal: put crime out of their neighborhood, make it a better place to live," said Al Hauke, one of the BPD patrol officers assigned to "Zone 6" of the city.

His partner, William Cross, continued, "We knew the possibilities that were here. We got with the landowners, apartment owners that were here, and the tenants wanted it. The people that live here, they don't want to live in a bad area."

Consider the before and after. A vagrant drug addict called an abandoned HUD apartment on Pepper Tree home. He was sent packing, although he obviously didn't pack on his way out. Encouraged by the police, Steve Tinkle and his Covenant Alliance group has come in, bought a number of the apartments, and is in the process of renovating them for rental. The end results are clean, refurbished units that hardly resemble hideouts for addicts.

"When we renovate a unit, we want it to be where we would live in," said Tinkle, "and just because it may be lower income housing doesn't mean it has to be substandard.

Tinkle continued, "Through their leadership of helping to bring in the property owners, the tenants, the police department, and even the housing office, together, it just helps and works better for all of us."

Police refer to the Broken Window Effect in instances like this. "When you see a place and it has a broken window," according to Cross, "if it's not repaired, then the criminal element sees that and thinks that the owner or property manager isn't taking care of that place, so that's going to sure a place that they can go play."

But neighbors like Earl Bradford say the united front encouraged by police has changed the landscape here.

"We try to give everybody a different outlook on the neighborhood," Bradford said. "I receive calls at least four to five times a week about getting an apartment here. So, I guess it's happening. You can see the change in everybody."

"As our crime numbers go down," said Hauke, "our calls for service will actually come up because we've educated the residents within the neighborhood."

In early March, those residents and BPD will come together to walk the streets of Southwest Bryan and clean up the area. Every piece of litter picked up, they say, is one less clue to a criminal that he could take up operations there.

"It's a very small percentage of bad people," said Cross, "and the rest are fantastic, but they get scared or beat down by the small percentage. Now, we have strength in numbers with the residents. They say they're not going to put up with it their neighborhood."

The formula is simple: trust in the police plus care for neighbors and upkeep of the community could equal fewer vagrants, fewer crimes on the streets, fewer lookouts on the corner.