Crime rate continues to drop in Plano
Crime rates in Plano dropped again in 2012, with decreases in almost all major categories, including murder, robbery and aggravated assault.
This did not come as a surprise to Chief Greg Rushin, who noted that in 2010 and 2011 Forbes magazine named Plano the safest city with a population greater than 250,000. While he heaped praise upon his officers, he was also quick to point out that they could not do their job without the help of Plano residents.
"There are really two things cities that have low crime rates have in common," Rushin said. "The first is they hire the very best people who are passionate about their jobs, and then give them the right direction. The second is a strong citizen partnership. The more you can engage the community, the more successful you will be."
Rushin said while his department has 341 officers, that is not enough to patrol every square inch of the city at all times. That, he said, is where having alert residents is beneficial.
"They are our eyes and ears out in the community," he said. "We don't usually see the crime occur because we don't have enough people; the citizens are the ones who see it. If they immediately report suspicious activity and crimes, we are able to quickly respond and take care of those issues."
Having an engaged community also helps the department be proactive, rather than reactive, in stopping crimes. This is done by educating residents on how they can better secure their property in order to make themselves less attractive to criminals.
In addition to officers and residents, a third group in the city also helps keep the crime rate low. Sgt. Lindy Privett of the department's crime prevention unit said volunteers, who wear uniforms but are not able to make arrests, are a key component to the city's law enforcement operations.
"They do so many things besides just being extra eyes and ears that can report suspicious things that are going on," Privett said. "They help by taking a lot of the calls that sworn officers would have to take if the volunteers weren't there, such as assisting motorists that run out of gas or waiting on a wrecker. That frees up officers so they can look for more serious stuff."
The department had about 220 volunteers who put in more than 17,000 hours of work last year. These volunteers must be graduates of the city's Citizen's Police Academy, after which time they undergo training on driving and how to operate police radios.
Among the duties carried out by volunteers are writing handicapped parking tickets, patrolling city parks, manning sky watch towers and helping the criminal investigation division. Their mere presence while on patrol is often enough to cause criminals to move on to other areas, Privett noted.
"They also help in what we call garage door patrol, where they look for open doors so we can educate homeowners about how important it is to keep their garage door closed," he said. "Criminals are looking for a crime of opportunity, and if you take away the opportunity, you often take away the crime."
Even with his crew of several hundred volunteers, Privett echoed Rushin's comments about the importance of engaging the community, something the Crime Prevention Unit focuses on.
"If you really want to make a huge impact on a community, you have to have the citizen's help," he said. "The police will never be able to do it by themselves -- it takes the whole community. That is what makes Plano great. You can't say it is just the police officers; it is because of the people."