LHPD sees sizable increase in calls
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Last year was a busy one for the Liberty Hill Police Department, and Chief Maverick Campbell said the factors contributing to an increased call volume will only intensify.
The department responded to 12,097 total calls for service in 2018, which are either calls responded to by the department or self-initiated by an officer. That number was 8,270 in 2017 and only 3,659 in 2016.
Population growth and traffic are the two biggest factors in the rise.
“Number one is the growth in the population,” Campbell said. “Number two kind of goes with number one, and that’s the growth in traffic within the city. More people that live in other cities or outside in the county use SH 29 as a thoroughfare to and from work. As more people move into other jurisdictions our geographical footprint puts us right in the middle of that.”
Population, traffic and new businesses opening over the past three years all combine to account for the annual increases, but Campbell said an increase in department size has also added to that.
“The other factor is we do have more officers,” he said “So some of our self-initiated activity has increased, that proactivity where the officers are out being proactive also contributes.”
To Campbell, being proactive is not just having more officers to catch more people, but it is about prevention and not having expend as many resources after a crime has been committed.
“Proactive policing is proven to reduce crime rather than reactive policing,” Campbell said. “Proactive policing is problem-oriented in specific areas that have an increase in say burglary or theft, where officers are being proactive during those peak hours where criminal activity happens and able to catch suspects in the act. When officers are proactive, your crime rate is reduced.”
As one example, with additional officers, Campbell said his department can do more preventative patrols.
On the traffic side, there were a total of 159 collisions reported, and do not include any collision where drivers exchange information without calling the police or when Texas Department of Public Safety of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office handles a collision because LHPD officers are unavailable.
Of those 159 collisions, 145 were non-injury incidents. Twelve had injuries and two resulted in fatalities, both on SH 29.
“The reduction in injuries was good for us,” Campbell said. “Our numbers last year for injury incidents were higher in the 20s.”
The department made 6,360 traffic enforcement stops in 2018, which include traffic stops, vehicles being impounded, citations being issued and warnings being issued. The total number of traffic stops are separate from the 12,097 calls for service during the year.
Crimes are divided into Part 1 and Part 2 Crimes, with Part 1 including homicide, forcible rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. There were 89 Part 1 crimes in 2018.
“Of those there was one robbery, 15 assaults, 16 burglaries – of as business, habitat or vehicle – 53 thefts – that could be a lawnmower theft, or someone stole someone’s wallet – and four motor vehicle thefts,” Campbell said.
There were 109 Part 2 Crimes in 2018. Those 109 were primarily divided up between forgery or counterfeiting, criminal mischief and narcotics offenses.
Other numbers of note include 12 juvenile activity incidents – which include runaways, curfew violations, minors in possession of tobacco – and there were 122 animal calls.
The Department responded to 15 mental health calls, which doesn’t account for all calls because the County Mobile Outreach Team also responds in the area.
Due to the increase in population, both in residents and businesses, the number of alarm calls continues to increase as well, with a total of 218 in 2018.
“Part of our proactive policing is doing a lot of business and neighborhood checks,” Campbell said. “We did approximately 5,000 business and neighborhood security checks for the entire year.”
After having Administrative Assistant Julie Sullivan on board for just over a year, Campbell said she has handled about 1,100 lobby contacts in 2018.
“That means people coming into the office, including phone activity and correspondence activity, and those are also technically calls for service,” Campbell said. “We’re providing a service whether they came in and found out the crime didn’t occur in Liberty Hill and maybe happened in Leander, so we’re still providing a service and putting that person in touch with Leander or the sheriff’s office or DPS.”
The total office activity for the year was 6,551, which Campbell said is citizens able to come in or call and get in touch with someone.
“That’s something they weren’t able to do for two years because officers were on the street or it would take away from something else,” he said. “We’re very lucky to have her.”
Campbell said there were two areas where police saw more focus in 2018, the first being all types of traffic-related incidents. He said those are showing the biggest increase in the area and that trend is unlikely to change as growth continues.
“SH 29 has become increasingly busy, 1869 and the loop have become more increasingly busy,” he said. “The second thing I saw is the fraud-type stuff like internet crimes, financial crimes, credit card crimes.
“We saw an increase in fraudulent activity with people claiming their cards had been used, but not necessarily used in Liberty Hill or stolen in Liberty Hill,” he said.
The continuing increase in traffic flow remains the biggest area of focus when it comes to where police will have to focus into 2019, but there is another area Campbell is concerned with as tax season ramps up.
Scams associated with tax returns are something else he said people should watch out for this Spring with all the confusion about refunds and the government shutdown.
“This is going to be a huge 2019 with the IRS and government shutdown stuff going on,” he said. “People are going to be asking if their tax returns are coming, whether they will be delayed or not. Criminals are opportunists and will take advantage of what current events are going on with the IRS and I anticipate there will be IRS phone scams.”
In addition, he said he sees an uptick in e-commerce crime through social media.
Avoiding falling victim to these scams can be as simple as thinking about whether something sounds too good to be true.
“If anyone is asking you to send them money that should be a red flag,” he said. “If anyone is asking for identifying information such as name, date of birth, social security number and address, that should be a red flag.”
Government and law enforcement agencies also do not call individuals about arrest warrants, he said.
“If you get a message like one of these and you’re not sure, take a message, call local law enforcement and ask them what they think about it,” Campbell said.