Kevin Baxter | Staff Reporter
SAN MARCOS – San Marcos’ crime rate has nearly doubled over the past ten years. For its class, San Marcos has recently risen over the national average for violent crime.
Though the crime rates in San Marcos have increased, the funding for law enforcement and similar services has not grown. Recently, the San Marcos Police Department Chief of Police, Stan Standridge, made a presentation to city council about budget and staffing concerns along with the rising crime rates in the city.
According to the presentation, violent crime has risen by 90.1% over the last ten years.
“The City’s 2019 Part 1 Uniform Crime Reports were higher than Seguin, Kyle, College Station, Georgetown, Hays County, and even New Braunfels,” according to the presentation.
In 2018, the violent crime rate was even slightly higher than Austin’s violent crime rate.
“Prior to this upward trend, San Marcos’ violent crime fared better than nearly all of these cities,” the presentation states.
Mental health calls have also dramatically risen over the past five years. In 2015, there were 784 mental health-related calls. This has risen to 1,739 mental health-related calls in 2020. These two numbers, given by the SMPD Chief of Police, indicate a 122% increase over the past five years.
According to the presentation, there has not been much of an increase in officers or 911 Operators over the last decade. At this same time, the population of San Marcos has grown by 43.5%.
“City Council has not authorized any increases in sworn staffing since 2018,” the presentation says. “No sworn supervisors have been added since 2016, when one sergeant was added. The department actually lost one Commander position and has operated with only four commanders since 2002.”
At this time, one commander is unsustainably supervising all evenings and midnights seven days a week. There are also only around six officers patrolling the streets for the entirety of San Marcos.
“They are staffed with eight officers, but one is allowed to take vacation, and one is allowed to attend training. Dayshift minimum staffing on the streets is six, as are evenings and midnights,” the presentation states.
The presentation shows that the Criminal Investigations Division is one of the more pressing concerns for staffing.
“Until 2021, the Criminal Investigations Division has not added a detective in 10 years,” stated the slide. “Due to the types of offenses the City is experiencing (which are above the national average), the inherent complications that come with violent crimes and the ever-present need to collect more and more evidence including technological evidence, the demand on CID is unmanageable for the number of detectives currently employed.”
Every day cases are inactivated because of the lack of staffing. Not having enough investigators to keep up with the amount of violent crime in the city could bring many concerns to those living in San Marcos.
As the population has continued to rise, there has been no increase in 911 operators since 2013. San Marcos 911 communications division is currently short-staffed by 11 positions, or by 41%.
San Marcos’ 911 communications division is also the only division in the county that deals with Emergency Medical Dispatch, Emergency Fire Dispatch, and Emergency Police Dispatch.
“Additionally the Division handles all Fire and EMS calls for the University, while also handling a portion of EMS calls for Guadalupe County,” the presentation says.
Pay is another issue for the 911 communications division. According to the presentation, “They are not the highest-paid telecommunicators in the Government Building, and they have no certificate pay or shift differential pay. With certificate pay and base pay combined, the City of Kyle and Hays County pay more for these positions.”
The rising crime rate and public safety has also been a hot issue with some of the candidates running for the San Marcos City Council.
Recently during a City Council Candidate Forum hosted by the Four Rivers Association of Realtors and the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce, city council candidate for place 5 Mark Gleason said that providing support to first responders is one of his top priorities.
“We’re going to have to continue to have those discussions about what the fire department and what the police department and EMS needs,” said Gleason. “And what 911 operators need. We are short eleven 911 operators as of today, and that is a dangerous situation in our community.”
According to myneighborhoodupdate.com, the sharpest increase in calls to SMPD in the past 12 months is classified under “other.” Which consists of mental health calls including welfare checks or suicides.
According to Neighborhood scout, San Marcos is only in the 15th percentile for city safety in the country. That being so, the city is below the national average in violent crime per 1,000, while the state of Texas is above the national average.
There are slightly less than 4 instances of violent crime per 1,000 residents in San Marcos while in Texas, as a whole, the number is around 4.2. That beats the national median of 4 per 1,000 residents. Around 1 in every 254 citizens are expected to be victims of violent crime in San Marcos.
Property crime, on the other hand, is different. While San Marcos is still below the national average in violent crime, property crime is much higher.
There are around 26 instances of property crime in San Marcos Per 1,000 people, surpassing the state of Texas which is around 24. The National median for property crime is 21 instances per 1,000 residents. About one in every 25 San Marcos citizens are expected to be victims of property crime.
Jude Prather, running for city council place 6 in the November 2 election, also voiced concerns about public safety at the candidate forum.
“The situation with public safety is very concerning,” said Prather. “San Marcos, we’ve had five officers killed or wounded in the past three years.”
According to the Texas DPS, San Marcos did see a slight drop in the total amount of crime reported by about 4.1%, from 2019 to 2020.
The specific types of crimes that dropped were Larceny and murder. The reported larceny had dropped from 1,177 in 2019 to 1,017 in 2020. Murders dropped from 8 in 2019 to just 2 in 2020.
Apart from Larceny and murder, all other crimes saw a slight rise in 2020, giving San Marcos a total crime rate of 1,699 in 2020.
“We have had a 90% increase in violent crime in our community in the last ten years,” said Gleason. “That is real, and that’s serious. On average, they’re dealing with 3,200 traffic accidents in our community every year.”FY 2022 Budget Considerations_Police Department_Final