Houston Police Department Chief Tim Ceplina holds one of seven bullet-proof vests recently acquired by the agency. The units are designed to stop up to a .308 caliber round at close range.

Staying busy in 2017 wasn’t difficult for Houston Police Department officers.

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Chief Tim Ceplina said the agency’s six full-time officer combined to investigate 747 cases requiring written reports last year, the most ever in a calendar year and topping the previous record of 718 from 2015.

HPD officers were involved in a whopping 4,750 service calls in 2017. The previous high was less than 4,000.

“That can be anything from a bank escort to assisting a motorist to assisting a citizen at their home,” Ceplina said. “But that’s a lot of service calls. We’re busier all the time, but with reduced services statewide for things like mental health, when somebody has an incident now, they generally call us because they don’t know what else to do.”

Houston police made 158 felony arrests in 2017, along with 446 misdemeanor arrests and 152 warrant arrests. Officers also worked traffic a bit harder last year, Ceplina said.

“We have an ongoing program in which we’re trying to reduce the number of traffic accidents around here,” he said. “Our average is about 150 wrecks a year, and we cut that substantially in 2016 and then worked 134 last year. That’s still down from the average, but more than we would like.”

HPD officers made more than 1,200 traffic stops in 2017 and wrote 491 tickets.

“For us, this is all about making the community safer for the citizens, but at the same time creating a safe working environment for the officers,” Ceplina said. “Something I think is big is that we make as many traffic stops on residential streets as on the highways. We try to do that; we try to be active in the residential areas because it increases our level of presence. We want the public to know we’re here and we’re out there for them and that we’re doing everything we can to make their property as safe as possible.

HPD
HPD

“I also believe that presence deters certain types of crimes and keeps some types away from our area.”

Ceplina said Houston experienced an increase in domestic violence in 2017 –– and officers worked 88 such cases (more than 10 percent of the overall caseload). Officers also dealt with 34 assault cases.

“All of the assaults were cleared and resulted in criminal charges,” Ceplina said. “And something I would like people to be aware of is that traffic stops and domestics that we worked so many of last year are the two most dangerous areas for law enforcement. That’s where officers get into the most problems and have the most conflict.

“But even though they’re dangerous to take part in, we do it to safeguard the community.”

HPD officers were assaulted three times last year.

“That’s a little bit down from the year before, but higher than it should be for a community our size,” Ceplina said. “Again, the officers are there to help people. But if something happens to put them in danger, they’re going to defend themselves and the people around them.”

Houston police wrote 26 citations for driving while intoxicated last year. Officers investigated reports of four stolen vehicles; one was recovered, one is still missing and two reports were deemed unfounded.

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“We did, however, recover three stolen vehicles for other agencies,” Ceplina said.

Officers responded to 178 reported thefts in 2017.

“The majority of those were cleared and suspects were arrested,” Ceplina said.

Drug crimes increased in Houston last year, as officers investigated 17 possession of marijuana cases, 35 drug paraphernalia cases and 21 cases involving possession of controlled substances other than pot, like methamphetamine, heroin and prescription pills.

“With that, we’ve been trying to have an increased working relationship with the South Central Drug Task Force,” Ceplina said. “That’s working well and we hope for that to continue to try to combat our drug problem here. We try to maintain a good relationship with all the surrounding jurisdictions, because we feel that’s a big part of being a professional department and it’s good for our community and the surrounding communities.”

GEARED UP

Houston police obtained one new patrol vehicle in 2017: a Ford Explorer outfitted with a police package. Ceplina said another is on order and should arrive in about two months. He hopes to have two more ordered before year’s end.

“And to try to save some money, we’ve gone away from light bars and gone with a hidden light package,” Ceplina said. “When the lights turn on, they’re very, very visible. We’ve also been awarded a grant and will be getting some side-mounted light bars for all of our vehicles. They greatly increase visibility, especially when you’re roadside and it’s kind of dusky or hazy out.”

Ceplina has set a goal to obtain similar patrol vehicles for all his officers.

“Hopefully within the next few years we’ll have a fleet of nothing but police-package Explorers,” he said. “We still have in service two civilian cars that were modified into police cars. Those historically have not held up well for us; their just not built for it –– the suspension, electrical and even the shifter are different in the Explorers.”

The HPD also obtained seven new bullet-proof vests late in 2017 that are designed to stop up to a .308 caliber round from close range. They’re equipped with steel plates and side panels (instead of Kevlar), and each weigh about 25 pounds. Ceplina said the vests were purchased from Spartan Armour at a total cost of about $2,600.

“We’re very pleased with them,” he said. “We got a substantial discount on them. I’m all for saving the taxpayers money in any way possible.”

CURRENT AND UPCOMING

The HPD began this year with the hiring of a new full-time officer, Jacob Shannon, a former Texas County Sheriff’s Department deputy and reserve police officer. In addition to the seven full-timers, the HPD has four reserves and will soon add at least one more.

Ceplina said discussion has taken place with the Houston School District about placing a school resource officer on campus.

“They seem very interested in that,” he said. “Nothing has been firmed up on that, but if Houston Schools is willing, that’s something I would love to look into. I feel there’s a real need there.”

Overall, Ceplina said he likes the current state of things.

“I think our department is in fine standing right now,” he said. “I’m very happy with what the city is doing for us, and I think we have seven officers who are as good as you can find in this career field. I think the morale here is high, the equipment is greatly improving and our efforts to maintain the safety of our community and its citizens has never been better.”

To reach the HPD, call the Houston City Hall at 417-967-3348.

“I think the morale here is high, the equipment is greatly improving and our efforts to maintain the safety of our community and its citizens has never been better.”

HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF TIM CEPLINA

•Chief: Tim Ceplina

•Sergeant: Brad Evans

•Corporal: David Kidwell

•Officers: Josh Green, Greg Ryan, Jacob Shannon, Matt Woodmansee

•Reserve officers: B.J. Adler, Brian Algire, Jeremy St. John, Terry Wolfe

HPD 2017 statistics

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