LHPD moves to 24-hour patrol

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Liberty Hill police officers speak to a woman after arresting the man she was riding with Friday. Police stopped the vehicle for an expired registration, but found the driver had outstanding warrants. Police Chief Maverick Campbell said that most late-night crime in Liberty Hill is DUIs and domestic violence, but that there are always surprises. (Waylon Cunningham Photo)

By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

The Liberty Hill Police Department now runs a 24-hour patrol, closing a roughly three-hour gap that had existed between the late night and early morning shifts for officers.

Previously the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department handled calls in Liberty Hill during this interruption. Now a local officer will be available to respond at any given hour, in addition to the department maintaining a constant presence on the streets.

Police Chief Maverick Campbell said that while Liberty Hill does not face a late-night crime problem, the department is not one to “sit back and wait.”

“Criminals are opportunists. They target areas without public safety,” he said.

The majority of nighttime crime in Liberty Hill are DUIs and domestic violence, he reported, but during a test run of the 24-hour patrol last August, Liberty Hill officers caught a man attempting to break into a business downtown. The individual was later linked to at least one of the home invasion-style burglaries that Liberty Hill saw a string of last year.

The new shift was made possible with the employment of Officer Royce Graeter at the beginning of February — a position the department filled within its existing budget of $735,500.

The Department now employs eight full-time commissioned officers and six reserve officers. Reserve officers are not paid.

Campbell said the move toward self-sufficiency will also strengthen relationships with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, which bears the responsibility for a number of small towns throughout the county. By closing their own gaps, Liberty Hill’s new patrol hours “take a weight off the shoulders” of the sheriff’s office, which will continue to play a crucial role in other instances.

The area patrolled by the Liberty Hill Police Department could soon become much larger.

Campbell, along with many city officials, expects the Stonewall Ranch subdivision to soon be annexed into city limits. Stonewall currently contains around 300 homes, though there are an additional 800 lots to be developed there. Several other subdivisions are soon expected to join it.

This expansion could accelerate if Liberty Hill attains a “Home Rule” status, as City Administrator Greg Boatright predicted last week could feasibly happen within 18 months. The designation, which can be applied for under state law after a city exceeds a population of 5,000, would greatly increase Liberty Hill’s capacity for further annexation.

“We’re poised to stay ahead of that growth as best we can,” Campbell said.

The 24-hour operation is part of that preparation, he said.

“The modern law enforcement demands new and creative approaches, and this is a piece of the puzzle in our structure. It puts Liberty Hill at the forefront of innovation.”

Campbell was sworn in as Liberty Hill’s police chief in June 2016, and has since overseen the relocation of the department into a new, larger facility downtown.

Waylon@LHIndependent.com

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