The City of Abilene is asking community members to join committees in an effort to reduce crime. Mayor Anthony Williams held a meeting at the Abilene Convention Center Monday night asking for volunteers to help the efforts of two local groups; ACT (Accept responsibility, Collaborate and Take action) And Stop The Violence.
He was joined by representatives from local law enforcement, the Chamber of Commerce, AISD, local pastors and victim advocacy groups. Over a 100 people came to the meeting to hear more about how they can do their part to make a difference.
Local realtor Jamie Dalzell said she wanted to find out more about how to become involved in the community. She also has three young sons that will be growing up in Abilene.
“I wanted to know where I can lead them, to direct them to some advocates so that if they ever have problems,” Dalzell said.
Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge talked about his proposed crime prevention strategies which depend on mutual respect and trust between the department and the community. He highlighted successful programs that APD has used to improve neighborhoods and relationships with at-risk youth.
Standridge also said the department is experiencing a high call load because they’re being used as a solution for non-criminal issues and the department is chronically understaffed.
“We have got to get to full staffing, I have never been to full staffing,” Standridge said.
APD is authorized to have 216 officers but they’re perpetually short, right now there are 188 officers. The senior officers retire at a faster rate than new faces joining the department.
Several people spoke up with their own ideas for how APD can reduce it’s workload and free up more patrol officers to concentrate on building relationships in the community. Some people proposed creating a drug court to handle non-criminal offenses.
Chamber of Commerce President Doug Peters said the community cannot arrest its way out of crime, instead the key to reducing crime in a community is to bring in more jobs. Abilene ISD Executive Director of Secondary Education Gustavo Villanueva spoke about the importance of looking at students individually, he said school administrators have an opportunity to impact the future and the present by being attentive to every student.
Sari David addressed the need for a crime victims response team to assist families in the aftermath of a tragedy. After the presentations, people were invited to sign up to volunteer for seven committees that organizers of the meeting have created. To learn more about the committees, see the Stop The Violence Facebook page.