Arlington chief lays out plan to cut crime

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Arlington police chiefs

Fifteen men have been police chief since 1915. Before then, the city was protected by marshals:

Name

Date Appointed

Pearl Rudd

Aug. 2, 1915

C.H. "Punch" Wright*

Feb. 21, 1916

Walter Norvil

March 6, 1916

Pearl Rudd

1917

Jim Coke

April 14, 1919

G.A. Coke

April 7, 1924

W.M. Douglass

May 14, 1925

G.A. Coke

June 21, 1926

Otto Grimmett

Dec. 20, 1926

W.M. Douglass

April 11, 1927

Ed Collins

April 16, 1929

Linton Lovell

May 5, 1931

Ed Collins

April 24, 1933

A.B. "Ott" Cribbs

April 17, 1934

Herman Perry

Feb. 1, 1971

Roy Ables

Oct. 1, 1983

David Kunkle

Jan. 14, 1985

Theron Bowman

March 9, 1999

Will Johnson

March 18, 2013

*Wright refused to take office

Source: City of Arlington

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ARLINGTON -- New Police Chief Will Johnson briefed the City Council on Tuesday on what he calls a "Focus on Five" crime reduction strategy designed not only to make Arlington safer but also to get residents more involved in crime-fighting.

The initiative includes refocusing on geographic policing, using enhanced intelligence-gathering techniques and promoting community engagement in person and online.

It also calls for the department to adopt a multiyear approach to addressing certain crime issues, such as nuisance commercial properties, and to look for the most effective means beyond arrests to enforcing the law.

Johnson, 40, was sworn in Monday as the city's 15th police chief. He has been an Arlington police officer since 1997.

"Our goal is to have as many communication vehicles as possible to get maximum participation in the community," Johnson said. Already, the department shares information about crime, enforcement and volunteer efforts through a variety of media, including Facebook, Twitter and neighborhood newsletters.

"You don't have to physically be at a meeting to be involved. You do have to be involved if you want to improve your neighborhood."

The department plans to tackle specific issues, including a spike in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and ongoing efforts with school officials to ensure that campuses are prepared for emergencies.

Last year, 62 percent of the city's traffic fatalities were linked to alcohol. The national level is typically 33 to 40 percent, he said.

"Certainly this has grabbed our attention," Johnson said.

Police have switched from two DWI task force operations a year to 12 shorter enforcement campaigns on holiday weekends. The city also launched a DWI awareness program geared toward students at Arlington and Mansfield high schools and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Overall, the city's crime rate -- including homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and vehicle thefts -- was down 11 percent last year from 2011.

Violent crimes were up nearly 2 percent, mirroring a national trend, though crimes involving guns were down, he said.

Cybercrime, which the FBI has called the No. 1 threat to national security; domestic violence; and human-trafficking cases are also among the department's top concerns. Last year, Arlington made 20 human-trafficking arrests and rescued 30 victims from the sex trade.

"Human trafficking has evolved over the years as technology has evolved. Although we still see some street-level prostitution, most of the prostitution is Internet-based," Johnson told the council.

School safety

After the school shootings in Connecticut in December, Arlington police began working with public and private schools to review campus security.

"That tragedy spoke to every community in America. It certainly spoke to me as a father," Johnson said. "We believed we had a very robust school safety plan, but we didn't want to make any assumptions."

Besides assigning patrol officers at elementary schools during student arrival and dismissal times, Johnson said, police and school officials extensively evaluated campus and districtwide response plans.

"We confirmed the security response protocols were as robust as we believed them to be," Johnson said.

But police and school officials will increase training and review response plans annually.

"Statistically, the chance of something happening in a school is incredibly small. Nevertheless, we knew it was on people's minds," he said. "We know that our schools are safe. That is a very important message for us to keep telling our community.

Faster information

Getting information to officers in the field more quickly is another priority. For two years, the department has been developing a tactical intelligence unit that searches public records, law enforcement databases, crime reports and Internet sources to provide additional information to officers as they respond to calls.

"We are looking to shorten the gap between when the case is reported and the case is investigated by the detective," Johnson said.

He gave an example from January when a usually quiet north Arlington neighborhood was hit by three burglaries.

After the last one, a resident called 911 with partial license plate information for a suspicious vehicle.

While some officers responded to the burglary call, others at the station looked into the license plate information.

They found a connection with an apartment complex across the street. Officers went straight to the complex, found the vehicle and the people associated with it, and obtained a search warrant that led to the burglary cases being solved.

Getting involved

The department will continue to emphasize citizen participation and partnerships with faith-based organizations, charities and businesses.

Last year, 40 community watch groups were added, and the city had the best National Night Out participation to date, Johnson said.

"I don't think we've even reached our full potential yet. I think the community has a lot more desire to participate than we're able to harness," he said.

Citizens on Patrol members volunteered more than 7,500 hours in 2012, the equivalent of nearly six full-time police officers patrolling the streets.

"This isn't just randomly driving through neighborhoods. This is very focused preventive patrolling taking place by our residents in areas that we need it most based on what our crime analysis is telling us," Johnson said.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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