Police chief talks about crime prevention plan
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Copperas Cove Police Chief Eddie Wilson came before the city council on Tuesday and talked about a plan for the department to be proactive where crime in the city is concerned, rather than reactive.
He said that back in 2015, the department began taking a look at itself to see what it could do better.
“We were doing a lot of things from a reactive standpoint. We had good people, we had a good system in place, but there were a few things we were lacking in and we worked really hard to try to identify areas we could get better at.”
He said something the department wasn’t very good at was planning. “This goes back to what I said earlier about being more reactive, essentially waiting for crimes to happen. We respond to those crimes, and deal with those crimes.”
He admitted officers generally don’t receive training in being proactive, but officer training typically focuses on reactive work—traffic stops and responding to calls when a crime has been committed.
Wilson said the department’s current three geographic districts—north, south, and central—have been divided into a total of 22 micro-sectors within each district, giving one area of responsibility to each of the department’s 22 patrol officers. The goal is to prevent crime and eliminate repeat calls for service. Each officer will be encouraged to get to know residents and business owners in his or her assigned sector. There are tasks and objectives within their sector for each officer, while they are still responsible for their district during their shift.
Instead of doing things like watching for drivers not wearing seatbelts or traffic violations, or vehicles with expired registrations, something officers might do during “down time” between calls for service, Wilson said officers will take a look at their micro-sectors.
“Crime is always going to happen, but we want to end the reactive mindset in our officers,” Wilson said.
Another issue to tackle is that of responding to citizen concerns, like frequent speeding on a particular street. Wilson said when he gets contacted for a concern like speeding, he will forward it on to Sgt. Cardona, the special operations sergeant who is also in charge of the traffic division. Cardona will then send out a department message to focus on that particular street because of a complaint of speeders.
“I’ll tell you right now, 90 percent of my officers will hit delete – it’s not on their shift, not in their district, so it doesn’t apply to them,” Wilson said. “Then the remaining 10 percent might also hit delete, because they’re thinking the other officer will take care of it. So, in the end, 30 days later, Andrea (Gardner) will get that email again, or I’m going to get that email again, ‘Hey, I haven’t’ seen an officer once.’”
Wilson said with this approach, there is no accountability to address the problem. Now, the issue will go to the sector officer. The officer can then let Wilson know the steps they’ve taken to address the problem in a particular area. He said the needs in every sector will be different.
“We also want to get officers out of their vehicles and make contact with the community in a non-enforcement capacity,” Wilson said.
The idea came to full fruition after more officers were recruited for the department, and Wilson said he’s putting focus on retaining officers in the department. Wilson said the department is also on the way to implementing Cove Watch, an automatic notification system that residents will be able to register for, using the same system as Code Red. Officers will be trained for the system in mid-August, after which residents will be able to register for voluntarily.
“We will get your name, address, phone number and email. If there’s something going on in your neighborhood you need to know about, we’ll notify you immediately. If we can get everybody on Cove Watch, that’s instant communication. With social media, you hope they’re on that platform, and they see it. It can be whatever the sector officer wants to use it for,” Wilson said, using the example of the numerous car burglaries this summer.