The Afterburner 12/04/13

By LeaAnne Klentzman 

Fort Bend County has been hailed as the top of a lot of things for a lot of years. For as long as any newcomer can remember Fort Bend County has been in the top tier of fastest growing counties in America for at least the last 20 years.

Fort Bend County has touted top schools, safe cities, and divisibility. Now, according to the New York Times, Fort Bend County is the most ethnically diverse in the country. Fort Bend County and her cities have proudly become the future of America.

With that future in mind it begs the question…. How and by what numbers did some local cities make the list of safest cities in Texas? First let’s begin by looking at what cities made the list and where they placed. Sliding into 20th place was Missouri City; followed by more centrally located and far better publicized Sugar Land at 22, closing out with Rosenberg to the west at 29th. Wow! These cities fell in line alongside places like Deer Park, League City and Lake Jackson; the top spots were reserved for suburbs of Dallas and Austin.

This study has been offered to the public by Safewise, a home security provider out of Utah.  On their website the Safewise organization states that they combined data from the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report (UCR) and “our own thorough research” to create the comprehensive list of 50 Safest Texas cities with a population of 20,000 or more residents based on data from 2011 reports.  In short, while the cities get to post a nice gold badge to their homepage stating “50 Safest Cities in Texas,” it is nothing more than an another marketing ploy which brings us to issues that have plagued the FBI’s UCR reports for years.

While the state and federal government try hard to not allow the UCR Reports to be manipulated, they can be.  Crime numbers for a community, up or down, have an impact on the  city’s image, real estate, advertising, local Chamber of Commerce, the police chief, city manager, as well as council members.  If crime is up, constituents want to know why, when crime is down everyone rolls along fat, dumb, and happy.

In the age old game of government staffing, crime will trend downward, until of course they need more personnel; then you will notice an uptick in offenses. Fear and fear of crime is a great motivator for decision makers.

While being listed in the top safest cities in Texas by an alarm company survey is a boon to advertising, it is just that, an advertisement.  For those of us who live here, all we can say is….Really? Take a look at the calls for service; look at the down tick in one UCR stat and the uptick in another of a lesser offense. Yeah, we know how the game is played.

Speaking of crime as a motivator, as Fort Bend County has grown and tax dollars have been stretched thin, the contract cop business has exponentially exploded.  Contract cops are officers hired as a supplemental law enforcement group that is paid by the community they serve (a private entity; private monies).  Those communities are generally affluent neighborhoods that want more of a law enforcement presence than can be provided by the police or Sheriff under whose jurisdiction they fall.

Here in Fort Bend County these officers are generally deputies for either the Sheriff or a Constable.  They are by definition supplemental to the law enforcement that is required to be provided by the government through the taxes that are paid to said government .  For example, Precinct 4 Constable Trever Nehls has a contract in the Sugar Land neighborhood of Sweetwater.  That community pays extra for the Constable’s deputies to provide supplemental patrols inside their neighborhood even though they are paying city taxes.  However, when a crime is committed inside that subdivision it remains the responsibility of the Sugar Land Police Department to investigate and is reported in Sugar Land’s UCR Reports.

Precinct 1 Constable AJ Dorr has a contract with the Greatwood subdivision which lies in both the city of Sugar Land as well as unincorporated areas of Fort Bend County which is the sheriff’s jurisdiction and responsibility. Constable Rob Cook and Constable Ruben Davis also have several contracts that are supplemental to the jurisdictions that fall under the Sheriff and the City of Houston.

The contract cop business was a heated topic of the last Sheriff’s race.  Then candidate, now Sheriff, Troy Nehls said it was his plan to turn all contract law enforcement over to the Constables, of which he was one, stating he believed Constables were better able to provide that supplemental service. That commitment did not pan out. Sheriff Nehls has elected to renew the contacts that were with his office and even picked up some that were previously with Constables.

To make it clear, contract deputy programs are for supplemental law enforcement over and above what is paid for with tax dollars.

If crime is a problem and needs more funding, show us verifiable numbers – Real numbers…but wait…what would happen with the Safest Cities in Texas?.

Send questions or inquiries
to LeaAnne Klentzman
Fort Bend Star
4655 Techniplex Dr. Suite 300
Stafford Texas 77477

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