When law enforcement officers arrive at an apartment complex, the first questions they often hear from the younger residents are “Who are you looking for? Who are you here to arrest?” according to Sgt. Tony Hernandez of the Harris County Constables Office.
Now, the Spring Branch District’s Apartment Life Committee has a plan to help raise the positive profile of law enforcement and engender greater trust and better communication from apartment residents.
The District will be divided geographically into four quadrants, each of which will host a quarterly family fun day event–beginning in May–to allow families, apartment management and local law enforcement to interact in a positive way.
“The whole idea is to get our officers out there and give apartment residents a chance to interact with law enforcement, to get to know one another. We’re just trying to break that stigma that we’re just there to look for bad guys. We’re not always there to arrest someone.
SBMD Director of Services Josh Hawes said the events are likely to include barbecue and Radio Disney, as well as inflatable moonwalk attractions for the younger children and demonstrations of police SWAT equipment to intrigue the older ones.
Sometimes the youth just need someone to listen to them, Hernandez said. When one individual is separated from his or her gang to speak to an officer one-on-one, it becomes apparent that there are other factors at play: family problems or difficulties at school, he added, and sometimes they report being bullied.
In 2012, the constables have made more than 4,000 checks on apartment complexes in the District, and more than 16,000 checks on local businesses. From January to December, the numbers of misdemeanor and felony arrests have dropped substantially, which could be an indicator that the constables’ presence in the district is having a positive impact.
In other news that will affect public safety, Hawes announced that the district has applied for a grant that would allow local officers to acquire a trained police dog to assist in narcotics detection and arrests.