If you ask Missouri City homeowner Danny Allen about crime, he'll tell you a story about a close encounter just a few weeks ago right down the street from their home.
Allen said, "We heard one more shot, two more shots. On the second one, you could hear the bullet whiz by -- Shoom!!! Like that."
It's been a violent year in Missouri City. There have been four murders so far. The gunfire increased this summer in a small area, over a five-week period between August and September. The suspects killed two people, each in the front yard of a home -- one on River Rock Drive and the other on Derby Lane.
On Village Square Drive, a 10-year-old was shot in the foot. On Gentle Bend, someone shot several rounds into two different homes. On Lynwood, someone again fired into a home, this time striking a 14-year-old girl in the neck.
The victim's uncle, Madison Leonard, said, "I think she was listening to the radio. She was just dancing, listening to the radio and watching TV when the shot came through the window."
Missouri City Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said, "It's been a challenge down in that area."
The increase, he says, in some cases is due to a heightened law enforcement crackdown here. As gangs got pushed out of these neighborhoods, they would move out of the city to target victims. And rival gangs there would then strike back here where they live.
Chief Fitzgerald said, "Everybody is going through similar problems. We hadn't seen those types of noteworthy types of incidents in many years."
Neighbors in the Hunters Glen subdivisions in Missouri City are now working together to form a neighborhood watch group.
The city sent an advisory to home association board members in Quail Green, Quail Green West and Hunters Glen I through V.
The department's strong partnership with homeowners' associations will be instrumental to effectively targeting and counteracting the gang- and gun-related offenses that occurred in July and August, said Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. He cited a number of anti-crime measures that residents who live in Quail Green, Quail Green West and Hunters Glen I through V can participate in, including:
- Attending regular monthly HOA meetings and conveying information regarding problem/nuisance homes to police officials and code enforcement staff
- Organizing and participating in a police department supported Crime Watch Program
- Participation in Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) classes with the Community Relations Officer Dan Flagg. The CPTED program arms citizens with knowledge of a vast array of crime-prevention techniques and helps decrease crime through education
- Participation in police department sponsored gang education workshop
- Targeting schools in hot spot areas for introduction to the Anti-Gang, "I choose to follow the rules" elementary school program. In the 2010-2011 school year, officers will focus on getting the anti-gang message out to kids early; holding training sessions in Glover Elementary on Court Road and Hunters Glen Elementary on Independence Boulevard.
- Offering anonymous tips to the MCPD by clicking on "Tracking Crime" under "Quick Links" at www.missouricitytx.gov
"In Missouri City, citizens believe in the police department, and we value our positions as a part of, not apart from, the community," Fitzgerald said, emphasizing the importance of citizen participation in securing safe streets all over the city. "We are greatly concerned about the recent rise in felony offenses in parts of District B, which is considered the police department's Beat 1."
He urged citizens to "step-up and speak-up" by sharing any information that could help officers solve the following crimes:
Missouri City police are working additional hours and have teamed up with their counterparts from other Fort Bend County and Houston agencies and the District Attorney's office to identify, apprehend and prosecute offenders. Since crime has no artificial boundaries, the MCPD long-term strategy is to work with other jurisdictions to increase police presence in the City and in the neighboring subdivisions of Briargate, Ridgemont, Quail Run, Teal Run and Quail Glen.
Explaining the decision to have a larger police presence in District B, Fitzgerald said, "Over the past month, this area experienced a significant increase in gun related violence. The police department had officers working hot spot patrols in the area on overtime since Aug. 5, but we needed to expand coverage by bringing in all police stakeholders. We continuously use crime analytics to determine which sections of our City require the most attention and adjust our deployment strategies accordingly."
Fitzgerald was not satisfied with year-to-date crime statistics through Aug. 31, showing 85 violent crimes last year versus 89 this year, although those same statistics show a 5.3 percent decline in property crime and a 12 percent decline in burglary.
"Community policing, crime prevention and enforcement are priorities in Missouri City," Fitzgerald said. "The police department has a 'zero tolerance' approach for gang-related crimes; an opinion shared by most local leaders. Our local law enforcement community was quick to lend us assistance, a testament to our collective commitment to improving all citizens' quality of life."
He added, "The police department remains cognizant of the potential negatives associated with use of proactive patrol strategies to deter gang activity, and arrest weapons violators."
However, he explained, "the department relies heavily upon their positive interactions with area leaders, community, and faith-based groups to maintain positive community support. We certainly do not wish to damage any goodwill or negate the substantive progress gained over the past year. We will continue to educate, inform, and engage the community, but must not relent until we have peace on the streets."