Houston Police chief Jim McNiell.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and his department’s officers were busy people last year.

Data compiled from cases the department dealt with in 2011 makes it clear: Officers wrote 489 reports, compared to only 328 in 2010. Written police reports are generated to document investigations of major crimes, warrant arrests and vehicle accidents within the city.

“That’s an increase of 169 investigative reports,” McNiell said. “That means we’re handling a lot more calls for different issues.”

One statistic McNiell said concerns him is the increase in drunk driving arrests. The HPD made 43 driving-while-intoxicated arrests in 2011, compared to 22 in 2010.

“That’s not a good sign,” McNiell said.

Total traffic citations issued by Houston police increased from 240 in 2010 to 340 in 2011. McNiell said his officers didn’t just write more tickets, but also doled out 1,060 traffic warnings last year, versus 489 in 2010.

“Our officers issue warnings instead of tickets at a ratio of about 3-to-1,” McNiell said, “and I appreciate that they do that.”

Reports involving theft and burglary in Houston increased substantially last year. HPD officers wrote 87 reports in 2011 involving misdemeanor stealing under $500, compared to 38 in 2010. There were also four reports of vehicle theft.

“Something that really disturbs me – and the economy seems to be contributing – is that we saw a big increase of these cases in our community in the last quarter of 2011,” McNiell said. “And we had 49 more for the whole year; things like shoplifting and stealing from gas stations were way up.”

Another statistic McNiell said concerns him was that Houston police documented 12 cases of resistance and non-compliance in 2011.

“One of those led to an officer being assaulted,” he said. “He wasn’t seriously injured, but it’s just the idea that people need to comply. That makes it safer for the people and the officers.”

There were reports of 14 assaults and three robberies written by Houston police in 2011.

“And several were serious in nature,” McNiell said. “The robberies unfortunately are hands-on in nature, whether someone takes something from somebody by threat or use of force. And there can be weapons involved, too.”

Houston police responded to 1,803 calls for public assistance in 2011, an increase of 153 over 2010. McNiell said officers unlocked 303 vehicles inside the city, and that the department’s days as an unlocking service may soon be over.

“That’s a lot of vehicles that we’re unlocking, and I don’t know how much longer we’re going to continue that,” he said. “There are some liability issues and there are a couple of local businesses that will unlock vehicles. Once we establish a new policy – and the city council is looking at it – we would only unlock a vehicle in an emergency situation.

“One thing we joke about a lot is that several people are ‘repeat offenders,’ who have locked themselves our of their cars multiple times.”

A total of 57 vehicle accidents were reported in Houston in 2011.

“There were probably over 100 accidents total,” McNiell said, “but police reports are not generated in many instances.”

As busy as their jobs have become, staying current on paperwork is hard for police officers who must continue to respond to increased numbers of calls. But McNiell believes his department is up to the task.

“I’m probably six or seven written reports behind myself, and at the same time, calls continue,” he said. “But we have a good department and a bunch of hard-working, capable officers. We’ve been making some good arrests, and doing some good police work to get crimes solved.

“This is a good community, and what we’re trying to do is make it as safe as we can for the people who live here. Unfortunately, we have some people who are making poor decisions, but the officers are serving this community well.”

While crime in general is not always preventable, McNiell pointed out that there are things people can do to help curb theft.

“Definitely keep your vehicles locked and your keys with you, and don’t leave things of value in plain view,” he said. “And keep your home’s doors locked and leave a light on when you go away at night to give the impression of someone being home. Have neighbors who can be your eyes for you and for law enforcement.

“Just don’t make it easy for thieves.”

A look at the Houston Police Department’s case load the past twoyears:

Reports       489        328    
DWI arrests   43       22    
Traffic citations   340       240    
Traffic warnings   1,060       489    
Burglary reports   87       38    
Public assistance calls      1,083       930    

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