The number of business and residential patrols conducted by the Magnolia Police Department increased 579% and 214%, respectively, from 2018-19, according to the department’s 2019 annual report presented in February.

Business checks totaled 5,253 in 2019, a spike from 773 checks in 2018, according to the report. During the same time, residential patrols grew from 787 to 2,479.

Chief Kyle Montgomery said in a March interview he attributes the increase to a change in focus for the department.

“We deliberately did it that way, especially with as much growth as we’re fixing to have ... within the next five years. ... The whole point of what we’re here for is to provide the best quality life for everyone,” he said. “[We need to be] visible in these communities so that they have low crime rates and they feel comfortable.”

Montgomery said a business check entails officers visiting with business owners during the day or walking around the business when it is closed. He said he believes this gives business owners peace of mind.

With a push for more patrols, the number of traffic stops and arrests—often made through traffic stops—decreased slightly year over year, Montgomery said. The department performed 5,313 traffic stops in 2019, down from 6,719 stops in 2018, according to the report.

“In addition to still being out there and being proactive [at traffic stops], we’ve stepped up our residential and business patrols as well,” he said. “We’re just trying to do both to make sure we absolutely do the best that we can do to keep crime down.”

However, despite the commercial and residential growth hitting the Greater Magnolia area, Montgomery said personal and property crimes—such as burglaries, theft and robberies—have held steady year over year.

“It’s one of those things that we just have to maintain our presence to help keep crime low,” he said.

Montgomery said the department will undoubtedly need more staff to keep up with growth, but growing the department is tricky until the city sees a larger tax base.

“We’re trying to do our best to forecast how many officers we’re going to need based on daytime population,” he said. “There’s just all kinds of little things where you want to try and get the pieces in place before you have the need, but at the same time, we do have budget restrictions.”