The end-of-year statistics for Kilgore Police Department came with a pleasant surprise: the agency tracked no robberies in the city limits in the past year.
Lest it be confused with other crimes, Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter offered a simple definition for a robbery.
“You take what you want by force,” he said, particularly with a weapon. “Our robberies typically have been, in the past: hotels, convenience stores, banks, things like that.”
Not in 2017, however. There were robberies in the vicinity, but none in Kilgore.
“We couldn’t find in our records that’s ever happened before. I don’t know if there will ever be another year where we’ll have a year with a zero for robberies.”
Releasing the data from KPD’s 7-Year Summary of Uniform Crime Statistics, Hunter noted an overall decline in all incidents and with ongoing reductions in most categories.
For example, there were 80 burglaries in 2017 compared to 86 in 2016 and 99 in 2015.
“It’s trending down, which is excellent for us,” Hunter said. “As you know, in statistics you have to look at them for several years to see if there’s any trending issues.”
Tracking an average decline in incidents, he noted a reverse in 2015, attributing it to the economic recession. Things got back on track quickly, and the new data on robberies almost seemed too good to be true.
“That’s just phenomenal to have no robberies in our size city,” he said, “15,000 (population) on the interstate. Also, the reduction in theft by 20 percent is a huge number.”
It’s a claim most surrounding communities can’t make.
According to the statistics, there were 406 incidents of larceny (theft of personal property) in 2016, but the past year saw just 313 cases.
Auto thefts declined by 6.5 percent from 2016 to 2017, Hunter noted. In context, though, the latest report groups theft of ATVs with automobiles.
“I felt like we were too high in that category, but if you drill into it, it includes ATVs. We’re in an area that has a lot of ATV ownership, and those are often targeted by thieves.”
Among all the categories – murder, rape, robbery, assault (aggravated), burglary, larceny and auto theft – 2017 saw 475 combined incidents. It’s a 19.1 percent decline from 2016’s total, 587 incidents, and the lowest number of the past seven years.
“We’re involved in a lot of proactive activity throughout the year trying to reduce crime, but you don’t always know the results until you compile all your statistical data.”
Incidents of rape declined by two, from 12 cases to 10. The number of assaults did not change – there were 41 in 2016, the same in 2017, still up from the low of 28 in 2011.
There were two murders within the city limits in the past year.
In April, Juan C. Vazquez reportedly cut his wife’s throat before turning the knife on himself. Maria Carolina Alveraz died that night, Vazquez soon after. Then, on the last night of the year, Dwight Patrick Scott is accused of shooting to death his fiance, 50-year-old Tracy Reedy – Scott remains at-large after apparently fleeing the area immediately.
“They’re both family violence-related,” Hunter said, “which is hard for us to impact at all.”
KPD notes six murders in the city in the past seven years (see UCR Crime Statistics Chart, above.)
With a variety of factors in play, Hunter confirmed the department’s focus on crime reduction through hard-hitting, proactive, community policing.
“All of the supervisors throughout the year meet and discuss the trends that they’re seeing and how we can reduce this. They themselves will come up with strategies for their shift,” Hunter said. “The day and night shift strategies may differ, but they work together there.”
One such strategy is the use of crime prevention cards. Shoppers may return to their vehicle to find a notification left on the windshield warning them that items in view in the car or truck may be tempting to thieves.
“We often will leave those tip cards to let them know to hide those things to prevent theft,” Hunter said. “We’ve done the same things across the city with the signs we put up in certain areas where we’re seeing more burglary of motor vehicles occurring.”
At the same time, the past year has seen officers become more proactive in their patrols of convenience stores, especially in the evening hours. There are more walking patrols at Walmart, where officers are regularly-dispatched on shoplifting calls.
“And then, working with the public, trying to help them to understand not to be a victim, to abide by those strategies which we talk about,” Hunter said: “How to reduce burglary in motor vehicles by removing the valuables, hiding the valuables, locking the vehicle.
“We’ve done that at service groups, we’ve done that on our social media sites, all of this has had an effect.”
Incident videos posted online are showing positive results, he added: social media users have helped KPD investigators solve a variety of cases.
“We believe that it’s a partnership between the police and our citizens who have helped us. It goes beyond just our proactive stance,” Hunter said. “Any time we can solve those cases and put somebody in jail for those crimes, we’re going to have an impact.
“Having a hard-hitting approach has certainly helped us.”