Security cut by gentlemen's agreement

July 11, 2008 3:57:44 PM PDT
Is the politics of protection cheating some neighborhoods out of the security their taxes are supposed to buy?The sign in one north Harris County home's garage reads "Never mind the dog, beware the owner." That's because the owner is Freddie Conner and she's packing heat, no really.

That's a .38.

"In 27 years I don't remember seeing anybody out here, nobody, we're our own law out here," she told us.

Freddie's talking about the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Last year a house being built by one of Freddie's neighbors was burglarized. He sent an email to County Commissioner Jerry Eversole.

"I can tell you with assurance that we essentially never see a sheriff's patrol in the neighborhood."

In response, a sheriff's captain sent this shocking email to the commissioner's office.

"He stated he never sees a patrol car from the sheriff's office in Amberwood. I concede that to be true."

This email would have been destroyed if Channel 13 hadn't sued the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

"I think that's ridiculous, we pay for protection just like everyone else," Freddie told us.

And wait till you hear the reason sheriff's deputies didn't make the trip up Lee Road to Amberwood.

"It's a small enclave surrounded by two Precinct 4 constable's Office contracts. Ingress and egress to Amberwood is gained solely through streets in those contracts."

"I'll tell you what that makes no sense," said Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Sounds a little bit like West Side Story.

"It does and it's totally ridiculous," Freddie said.

Of course in West Side Story The Jets and The Sharks rumbled over their turf.

Both the sheriff's office and Precinct 4 Constables Office admit they don't routinely patrol in each other's contract areas even though many are not 24 hour a day contracts. So pay extra for a contract and you may lose the patrol your taxes already paid for.

"I would say he's probably not going to as in a normal course of duties if he knows there's a unit in there or he may, I can't speak for everyone one of those deputies out there," Chief Billingsley said.

Precinct 4's chief deputy told us, "It does happen from time to time but usually on a limited basis."

Precinct 4 described it as a gentleman's agreement.

"I don't know who the gentleman is they have an agreement with over here, it's not me, I've never discussed that with them period," Chief Billingsley said.

One sheriff's deputy spent time having some Precinct 4 patrol signs removed, "They erect them in locations of high visibility for something they are not contracted for."

Precinct 4 responded:

"There are no hard feelings between the staff of the Precinct 4 Constable's Department and that of sheriff's office. The constable is aware that some personnel within the sheriff's office may view us in a competitive light."

The two agencies fought over a contract in Spring Lakes prompting this captain's emails, "This is some more typical C-4 back door politics at work."

Chief Billingsley promises politics won't keep sheriff's cars from patrolling in the constables turf.

"I want my deputies to be police officers, if their nose takes them somewhere go there," he said.

But the politics of protection certainly hit home in Amberwood.

"We pay our taxes like everyone else, why can't we pay for protection," Freddie asked.

The politics of protection also may affect response time. Even the sheriff's office admits you may not get the closest cop when you call for help. It often depends more on who has the security contract for your neighborhood even if another lawmen is closer.

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