City PDs work to maintain low crime rates

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Pearland and Friendswood remain two of the safest cities to live in the state as the Pearland Police Department readies a new strategy for crime prevention and adds officers to handle the region’s growing population. Friendswood has maintained a low crime rate with about nine crimes per 1,000 residents in 2015, according to officials.

City PDs work to maintain low crime ratesPearland’s continued growth has made the city much more than just another Houston suburb, said Pearland Police Department Lt. Onesimo Lopez.

“The increase in retail establishments and restaurants as well as the availability of homes combined with our prime location adjacent to Houston have made Pearland a destination city all its own,” Lopez said. “I think that a steadily increasing population combined with an increase in the number of daily visitors will require an increase in staffing for all city services in order to meet the needs of this growing community.” 

Pearland’s population was estimated at about 110,000 in 2013 and is projected to grow by an additional 46,000 residents by 2040, according to the 2013 U.S. census.

Friendswood, too, has experienced a spike in population. The city’s population rose to 38,484 in 2014 from less than 30,000 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Changes in Pearland

Pearland has about 2,115 crimes per 100,000 residents, according to the Pearland Police Department. Some of the crime in Pearland and Friendswood may come from nearby Houston residents, but Lopez said he could not estimate how much it would be.

City PDs work to maintain low crime ratesIn November, the city hired a crime analyst and began its Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety program, Lopez said. DDACTS will take an analytical approach to crime prevention. In April, PPD will create a unit that will address the “hot spots” identified by DDACTS.

Pearland is also undergoing an intensive study to help improve processes and determine best practices that will assist the police department in the future as the city continues to grow, officials said.

“The study will give us a plan in terms of looking at staffing levels and where those should be,” Pearland City Manager Clay Pearson said. “The community is growing and changing. Crime changes, too, as times change, and we need to make sure we stay on top of that.”

PPD recently swore in three new officers, with eight more going through the academy and training who will join the department by 2017, Pearson said.

Pearson said Pearland is a safe place to live but acknowledged the city’s growth has attracted some unwanted attention from criminals as well.

“Pearland is a safe community and continues to be that way,” he said. “We have a large retail component [in the city], so people come from all over for dining and shopping. [Additionally] there [is a]strong transportation network. There’s a lot of energy and activity [in Pearland], and unfortunately there’s a small portion of people [who]are going to commit crimes of opportunity. But the police are actively engaged in solving and preventing crime.”

Lopez said Pearland’s police officers stay in touch with departments from neighboring cities to increase the chances of finding a criminal in a short amount of time. Emails and phone calls with the description of a suspect or vehicle help the process, he said.

City PDs work to maintain low crime ratesPearland is easily accessible by large thoroughfares, such as FM 518 and FM 2351, Lopez said. In addition, criminals who target Pearland have quick access in and out of the community via Hwy. 288, he said. 

“When we make it easier for residents to get around, we also make it, unfortunately, easier for crooks to get in and out,” Lopez said.

Pearland’s proximity to Houston makes it a popular place for commuters to live, he said. As a bedroom community, many homes are left vacant during the day. Because of this, home burglaries—which have been increasing—are one of the most common crimes, Lopez said.

The number of burglaries jumped to 304 in Pearland in 2014 compared to 294 in 2013. Lopez estimates the number of burglaries for 2015 is 319, but data for last year has not been finalized.

Friendswood’s low crime rate

Friendswood staffs about 1.5
officers for every 1,000 residents, Friendswood Police Department
officer Lisa Price said.

“If some type of large commercial development comes in, such as a large department store or a town center, the police department would definitely be asking [City] Council for additional personnel for the added call volume such a development would [bring],” she said. “Obviously the 1.5 staffing ratio has been working for us thus far, and unless something drastic occurs, this is the ratio that will be maintained.”

Although property crime decreased in Friendswood between 2013 and 2014, it remains an area of concern for the city, officials said. There were 70 reported burglaries in 2014 versus 89 in 2013, according to the latest data.

“Officers are urged to patrol the neighborhoods and be a visible presence on the farm-to-market roads, [which are]our major thoroughfares,” Price said. “We try to keep our citizens informed about the types of crime occurring and provide ways to prevent being a victim.”

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