BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 had a great, candid conversation at the Baytown Police Department on Friday. Despite any misconceptions and prior mistrust, the top cop and his staff said they're working hard to bridge any gaps, restore faith in their department, and bring down crime.
"Any of us would give anything to be there to make a difference. To stop it from happening. You hate to see a young life cut short. It's tragic," Baytown Police Chief John Stringer said.
The murder of 16-year-old Shane Hamilton is top of mind for everyone around Baytown. He was an athlete at Robert E. Lee High School with his whole life ahead of him, and now one of several homicide victims in 2023.
So far this year, there have been three homicides, compared to five homicides in all of 2022.
"We're aware of what's going on. We are actively investigating all the criminal activity," Stringer continued.
Stringer said they've done re-training since he took over at the end of 2021 and made a big outreach push - especially in the Hispanic community, which makes up about 51% of the city's population.
As far as young people, BPD is working closely with Goose Creek CISD to get ahead of threats and potential violence. They tell us social media has been the biggest challenge for them in recent years - with bullying, rumors and violence, in many ways, being glamorized. That's why they need families to meet them halfway.
"Being involved as a parent, and really talking to them. Taking a real strong interest into what they're doing, their hobbies. The people that they're hanging around with," Chief Davis Smith with Goose Creek CISD Police Department said.
Regardless of the numbers, and anything that may have some leery about whether or not they can trust Baytown PD, Stringer says yes, you can. And they say they're always here to address any problems.
"Give us a call. Let us know and I promise you that it will be looked into," he said.
Another goal of the department is to beef up the staff. They have about 14 openings right now from patrols to investigations. They know not everyone is called to be in law enforcement, but if that's one way you would like to make a difference where you live, check them out.