SEGUIN — A look at the statistics show Seguin is safer today than it was just a few years ago.
The Seguin Police Department’s annual report to the FBI for 2012 show that the city’s crime rate has gone down.
“We’ve had a 17 percent decrease since 2008,” Police Chief Kevin Kelso said Friday in going over the department’s annual report.
The 17 percent decrease is based on a comparison of the annual rates of what the FBI categorizes as Part 1 crimes — homicide, rape, robbery and other serious offenses.
Seguin’s rate of Part 1 crimes has been calculated at 4873.9 for 2012, a decrease of 6.5 percent from the rate of 5212.9 for 2011 and a decrease of 16.8 percent from the rate of 5856.2 for 2008.
Kelso attributes part of the credit for the decrease to the department’s “partnership with the community.”
“In order for us to be successful, we have to work together,” Kelso said.
The public is encouraged to call the police and report their concerns when something in their neighborhood “doesn’t look right.”
In an effort to strengthen the department’s relationship with the public, two community meetings have been scheduled next month. The first meeting will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church Parish Center, 409 Krezdorn, at 6 p.m. Friday, April 12, and the second session is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Faith Lutheran Church Activity Center, 1326 E. Cedar. Topics will include community safety, criminal investigations, communications and technology and community outreach as well as questions and comments from the public.
“We just want to meet with members of our community to let us know where we stand. We’re always looking to improve,” Kelso said.
Kelso and Captain Maureen Watson said they’re hoping to see improved attendance at this year’s community meetings.
While the overall rate of Part 1 crimes has gone down, there are categories that moved in the other direction.
“Burglaries and thefts are still higher than we would like,” Kelso said, Of particular concern is a 38 percent increase in burglaries of motor vehicles.
Property crimes, especially burglaries of vehicles, are readily preventable, he said.
Preventive measures include making sure the vehicle is locked and no possessions are left lying out in plain sight.
Kelso noted that one lone burglar going into cars can be responsible for a large number of offenses. One local case involved burglaries of some 70 vehicles in only a couple of weeks.
Residential thefts also are readily preventable.
“We often have things left outside, and the next morning they’re gone,” Kelso said, reminding local residents not to leave items out in the yard, on a porch or on a patio.
The annual report appears to show the department’s success in efforts against drug trafficking.
“We have had a 143 percent increase in drug arrests,” Kelso said, noting that drug arrests have gone from 103 in 2008 to 253 for 2012. “Our prosecutors are a real big part of that,” he said.
Seguin’s crime rate of 4873.9 compares favorably with those of other area communities. Although 2012 rates for other cities are not yet available, 2011 rates include 6485 for San Antonio, 7375 for Castle Hills, 5258 for Live Oak and 5021 for Gonzales.
Kelso didn’t provide rates for New Braunfels and San Marcos, saying those cities are very different from Seguin.
Watson commends Kelso, who has served as chief since 2008, for improvements. “A team is only as good as the head coach,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any question that we’re seeing a trend toward a better police department.”
A better department attracts better officers. “People want to come here. They see it as a modern, forward-thinking police department,” Watson said.
The local department has been named a “Recognized Law Enforcement Agency” by the Texas Police Chiefs Association which will formally present the award during its state conference scheduled for March 27 in Austin. Of more than 2,600 police agencies in Texas, less than 80 have received the association’s recognition.
“It was a lot of work on the part of many people,” Kelso said regarding the process of qualifying for the designation.