Victoria law enforcement looks toward future growth
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With Victoria booming right along with the Eagle Ford Shale, area law enforcement agencies are looking at ways to keep up with the fast-paced progress.
"With the growth then comes criminal activity, and that is just a matter of fact," said Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor.
He said the community - both the city and the county - need to look at how they should grow the law enforcement community.
The first priority, he said, should be growing the patrol officer staff.
"The community is going to have to set some priorities if they want better response times and better policing," O'Connor said, adding that he has kept staff levels up largely through grant funds, but those are not permanent.
Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said his department participated in an employment study this year by the International City/County Management Association. The Agency examined the department's current workload indicators, such as incoming calls, response time and investigative assignments, to determine the future staffing needs.
The results of that study are expected to be released in early March.
The department is 11 officers short. Craig said his department has beefed up recruitment and hopes the new city council-approved police pay plan will make Victoria more attractive for nearby officers.
"The department has to be looking at growth. Whether you are in favor of growth in Victoria or not, it is happening," Craig said. "We have to position ourselves for future growth, and that is what we will be doing."
O'Connor said an aspect the county will also have to consider is the needs of the Victoria County Jail in the next two to five years.
"Fortunately, we have been able to work with the jail diversion program and with a realignment of spacing, and I am conformable to say that we can still withstand some growth," O'Connor said.
Victoria Fire Chief Taner Drake said his department is also looking to the future of Victoria, participating in a study this year to examine the locations of firehouses, response times and staffing needs.
"As we look out in the next five to 10 years, what are some key triggers we should watch for? . We don't want to get behind the curve; we are trying to stay ahead of it," Drake said.