Could More Northgate Police Presence Be in the Cards?

College Station's major crimes as a whole are down, but some key numbers have risen. But there's another set of numbers that have new police chief Mike Ikner concerned.

As a result, there might be a little more blue in one section of town to help combat those numbers.

It's a scene that looks all too familiar, that happens over and over. Accidents are on the rise in College Station. Now, add alcohol.

"No one sends their child to Texas A&M for them to come and get arrested for DWI, for poor decision making," Ikner said.

So far in 2008 compared to the first six months of 2007, the total number of accidents is up 59 percent. In June alone, they rose 104 percent. Mix in an adult beverage now: alcohol-related wrecks have climbed 81 percent since 2007. But there's another number rising as well.

"Our DWI arrests are continuing to go up," Ikner said. "We are out. We will be aggressive in this form of our policing strategy."

That includes Northgate.

"That is a great economic driver for our city," Ikner said. "We want to make sure it is tourist-friendly. We want to make sure people are having a good time, but responsible."

With that in mind, new Chief Mike Ikner has a preliminary plan in the hands of city leaders with a request for more cops for Northgate. Coming from Arlington where things like Rangers baseball games are always bringing big crowds, store front hubs for cops to base operations out of are used on big event occasions. It's more than just a substation, and provides more visibility.

"I'm looking to maybe create that same type of unit in Northgate as we continue to talk with business owners, with the city," Ikner said.

Of course, it'll still be a couple months before the bars buzz loudly again, but there is a message from the chief to drinkers looking for a good, but irresponsible time.

"We will never abdicate our primary responsibility of public safety," Ikner said. "If that means that we may have to kill a buzz or two, then a buzz or two will be killed."

A Northgate patrol would also help serve another key goal of Chief Ikner -- better visibility, and not just in patrol cars. Ikner is hoping to emphasize face-to-face conversations with citizens to ensure trust.

For Ikner, it's the little things when it comes to being on the job for a month, like planned changes to little name badges.

"Something simple as that where you can show, 'here's my name, I am your problem solver.'"

What he and his department would like to change is the recent trend of higher profile crimes. It's worth noting that the first part of this year compared to last, College Station's major offenses are down two percent, and crime categories like vehicle thefts and burglaries have dropped. But robberies, aggravated assaults and thefts are all on the rise as compared to the first half of last year.

Car break-ins are counted among that. Ikner says he's done his own survey when he's been around town, and isn't exactly surprised that break-ins are happening when there's good stuff showing.

"It's amazing the type of property being left inside of vehicles," Ikner said. "We're not able to position a police officer in every complex, in every parking lot, so I need some education and some help from the citizen side."

Plus, there's hotel robberies, with likely low cash amounts being taken, but guns being pointed. No one has been injured yet, but Ikner isn't willing to let that happen.

"You can assure that we are using both covert and overt measures, and we are shaking every branch of every tree right now," Ikner said. "I am not satisfied that theses are occuring within our city."

But maybe the biggest key for the Ikner administration is visibility of their force, not just on crime scenes. He says they're in the midst of crafting plans to get face-to-face with residents.

"Truly, to me, when you can get out of that patrol car and connect with the citizens to understand their problems, that face-to-face connectivity is what we really need to solve these issues," Ikner said.

An audit of the police department started before Ikner arrived is being conducted. The chief says his voice and his vision is being heard as a consultant provides insight into how the department is being run.

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