Here’s how to boost the number of police officers available on patrol while freeing up officers to work as detectives in the burglary and other backlogged divisions:
- Implement verified response for burglar alarm calls, requiring alarm companies to verify a crime was committed before dispatching police. These alarms are 98-99% false, almost never result in arrests, and account for 10-12% of most departments’ patrol calls. This one reform would be the equivalent of increasing patrol staffing by ten percent.
- Begin to use discretion given police by the Legislature in 2007 to write citations instead of making arrests for driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana.
- Follow Texas’ other large cities by issuing paraphernalia citations for crack pipes instead of sending them to the crime lab to scrape traces off for state-jail felony possession prosecution. (See Harris County District Judge Mike McSpadden’s letter to the Legislature urging this reform.)
Those three changes would free up many thousands of police hours without costing the city a dime – certainly enough to allow HPD to adjust staffing levels to create a few dozen new detective slots. Indeed, the last couple of bulleted items would probably save the county money, too.
I agree with what he says, all of which has been said before but bears repeating. I hope everyone who wants more police at least asks about these things. They’re good ideas even if we didn’t have a debate about staffing levels going on.