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Police: new wreck policy frees up officers (video)

By Bianca Montes
Nov. 16, 2013 at 5:16 a.m.
Updated Nov. 17, 2013 at 5:17 a.m.

When a driver crashed into the back of Mando Arredondo's truck, he wanted the Victoria Police Department to send an officer to assist him.

Because there were no visible injuries and both vehicles were operable, the accident was classified as a minor wreck, and an officer was not dispatched.

Arredondo was not happy.

The Victoria Police Department altered its accident response policy in April to respond to only major wrecks.

Despite the initial criticism, Police Chief J.J. Craig said the change has saved the police department more than a hundred hours of work time.

Craig said the change was necessary to balance his understaffed department.

The patrol unit is an intricate part of the police department, Craig said. Because of this, at times, he has had to change an officer's post to maintain a full unit.

"I have contingency plans in place where if we were to lose people in patrol, we would divert resources elsewhere to ensure the core mission of the department is accomplished - and that is responding to calls of service."

Patrol officers respond to all emergency calls, which include robberies, thefts and other crimes in progress.

The department was down 11 officers before the policy change, Craig said, a number that has risen to 14 open positions.

Craig said the policy change saved about 121 patrol officer hours. Factoring in the time dispatch operators spent explaining the new policy, the time saved is about 109 hours.

Craig's estimation is calculated by taking the average time to work a minor accident - about 35 minutes - by the 207 minor accidents officers didn't work in the six-month trial run.

In 2012, Craig said officers spent about 1,800 hours responding to minor accident and completing reports.

When Arredondo attempted to handle his minor accident without the assistance of police, he said the other driver became enraged at the situation, blamed him for the accident and then refused to exchange insurance information.

She then left.

Arredondo called police, but he was told the only way to recoup his damages would be to press hit-and-run charges against the other driver.

"I felt so unimportant," said Arredondo, 39, of Victoria. "This is what they get paid for - taxpayers are paying for this. What is it going to hurt them to come out and do a police report?"

Craig announced this month at a Victoria City Council meeting that the department will continue with the nonresponse policy for minor accidents.

Bruce Woods, a State Farm insurance agent, said he stands with the chief's decision not to dispatch officers to minor wrecks.

"Unless the officer actually witnesses the accident," Woods said, "all he is doing is gathering information."

Theresa Klacman, 48, of Victoria, said she's had her fair share of fender benders when she lived in Austin and never needed the assistance of an officer.

"I think it's great," she said about the Victoria policy. "I think officers have more important things to do.

"Mature adults should be able to handle a minor accident by themselves."

Klacman said not having an officer investigate a wreck also was not troublesome when it came to insurance.

"You can usually tell when a person might lie," she said. "If they're hostile and won't take responsibility or share information, then I would call the police."

Officers are only required to make a written report of an accident if there is an injury, death or more than $1,000 of property damage, according to Texas Transportation Code 550.

"What we've found out is this has helped us," Craig said. "It hasn't solved all our workload problems, but it's a start and a good way to keep officers in the field."



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