Response times to priority calls have improved and the crime rates continues to be among the lowest in the country, says Flower Mound Police Chief Andy Kancel.
Using the themes of equity, effectiveness and efficiency, Kancel appeared before the SMARTGrowth Commission this week to provide insight into the town’s police department.
Response times improved in 2014 for priority one calls on everything from incidents involving guns to major accidents. The response time was 4 minutes and 34 seconds – down from 4 minutes and 49 seconds in 2013. In 2012, the response time was 5 minutes and 10 seconds.
The department operates in eight separate districts covering 42 square miles with an estimated eight to 10 officers working at all times, Kancel said.
Kancel said the department is focusing on improving response times for priority two calls for incidents such as traffic hazards.
Crime trends in Flower Mound continue to be among the lowest in the state and the country, Kancel said. A total of 1,668 cases were assigned with 892 cleared.
“Just because you have a higher population … it doesn’t mean your crime rate will go up,” he said.
In Flower Mound, crimes reported in 2014 showed an increase in thefts and burglaries of motor vehicles. Kancel said last year, several groups targeted Flower Mound, burglarizing up to 20 cars at a time.
“We need to lock our vehicles,” Kancel said, adding that 95 percent of the vehicles targeted last year were unlocked. “We need to do our due diligence as citizens.”
To address the issue, the department began a social media campaign to ask residents to lock their cars and also pushed patrols deeper into neighborhoods.
Other areas that saw an increase were vandalism and fraud. Other categories of crimes were close to 2013 numbers. The police department also noted an uptick in non-injury accidents last year with 504 reported compared to the 430 reported in 2013. A total of 155 injury accidents were reported in 2014, down one from 2013.
Last year, Flower Mound partnered with police departments in Corinth, Northlake and Double Oak for warrant entry and detention center services. “They couldn’t put traffic warrants into the system and (this) also allowed them to use the jail facilities,” Kancel said.
The department increased its patrol fleet by repurposing Student Resource Officer vehicles. Kancel said the larger Tahoe vehicles were a good addition for several reasons including room for the additional equipment officers are required to carry. The department also began participating in Department of Justice and CoServ grants.
The department stayed within its budget for the Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the chief said. A total of $3,595 remained from the Crime District Budget of $2,195,909. A total of $67,540 remained from the general fund budget of $9,869,262. The department added four new school crossing guards, new part-time clerks and maintained their staffing levels at 94 percent.
For equipment in the near future, the police department has a committee of patrol officers reviewing the use of tablets instead of laptops in patrol cars. In addition, body cameras are being considered in addition to the cameras now in patrol cars. Hit and run incidents were slightly higher at 130 last year compared to 122 in 2013.
Several SMARTGrowth commissioners asked about whether density affected the crime rate. “From a housing density standpoint, I haven’t seen any type of difference,” Kancel said. “The call load is spread out pretty evenly.”
In 2014, the Flower Mound Police Department also stepped up its interaction with the public, starting a number of programs including “Coffee with a Cop,” reinstating the police bicycle unit, having a police pet of the month, becoming a Texas Special Olympics partner and even issuing tickets to youngsters in the form of tickets for free scoops of ice cream, Kancel said.
The chief also launched his own Twitter account as the department began posting more information on social media, including traffic enforcement locations.
An internal survey shows an increase in employee satisfaction with 54 percent indicating they were highly satisfied, up from 41 percent in 2013. A total of 86 percent of the department’s employees rated equipment good to excellent, the chief noted.
In last year’s citizen survey, 98 percent of residents participating indicated an overall feeling of safety – a component Kancel said was important to both him and the department.
“We’re only as good as we are perceived by our community,” he said.