For about three months, the New Braunfels corridor in San Antonio's Eastside will have an increased police presence. The increased presence is a response to the recent spike in violence in the Eastside, which has resulted in at least eight murders.
But the three extra officers won't be on typical beats answering calls from the SAPD Eastside substation. They'll be off duty, taking overtime, walking the streets and connecting with local residents and businesses for three hours a day, four days a week, as part of the San Antonio Housing Authority's Eastside Community Engagement Patrols Program.
The $50,000 in overtime comes from the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) program grant from the Department of Justice and was approved by City Council on Thursday morning. The Eastside Choice neighborhood, where the officers will be deployed in late April, is where a substantial portion of the violence is occurring, said SAPD Chief William McManus.
As part of SAPD's new emphasis on community policing, McManus said, block walking and foot patrols have already been increased throughout the city, but those efforts will "kick into full speed (in the Eastside) when this grant money come available."
McManus will continue to hold community meetings on the Eastside with residents to further SAPD's outreach.
(Read More: Eastside Residents Team Up with SAPD to Fight Crime)
Two officers will be on foot, walking together, and another officer will be nearby in a patrol vehicle for support, but if there's an event scheduled or other special circumstances, the program is flexible.
Similar community policing efforts in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood have reduced violent crime by 60%, said Brooke Cranshaw, Byrne CJI Grant Program Coordinator.
"Their job just is to just be visible, to establish contact with the businesses and the neighborhood there," said Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh. The chief has already asked on duty patrol officers, particularly on the Eastside, to use time between calls to walk the streets and connect with people, Walsh said, "this program is designed to do nothing but that."
When the Byrne grant-funded portion of the program concludes at the end of July, McManus said SAPD will evaluate the effectiveness of the program to consider further expansion. Body cameras, which will roll out on the Eastside in early May, will assist this review process.
Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) noted the trifecta of policing and public safety strategies coming online in the Eastside this spring. In addition to body cameras and the extra foot patrol, the new "shot spotter" technology, which triangulates the origin of gun shots fired within a given range and notifies the police department, will also be online in Eastside and Westside neighborhoods by late April.
“Crime is not just happening on the Eastside,” stated Warrick in a news release Thursday afternoon. “It’s important to remember that not one entity, resource, or tool alone will solve the current uptick in violence. It’s going to take a holistic and collaborative effort between the City of San Antonio, Office of EastPoint, SAPD, community organizations, neighborhood associations, local businesses and community leaders to sustain this effort and to see positive results. Proven successful and with adequate funding, this model will be implemented across District 2.”
*Top image: SAPD Officer Douglas Greene walks by the Handy Shop in the Eastside. File photo by Iris Dimmick.