Victoria police and religious leaders began a long anticipated dialog Tuesday of working together to help reduce crime in the city.
Police Chief Roberto Arredondo Jr. and Senior Police Officer John Turner met with 16 religious leaders on Zoom Tuesday morning to “open the lines of communication.”
In time, Arredondo wants to build “super meetings” with even more attendees and a lot of dialog that can help keep people safe. He wants to use the meetings as an intentional platform to provide education that can be shared with church clergy and members, as well as a time to hear from religious leaders about concerns in their various church communities.
“The fact that you want to help is a blessing in my early tenure here,” Arredondo said. “Having the ability to communicate with you and knowing you care and will take the valuable information and pass it on — I can’t tell you how important that is to our success here at the Victoria Police Department.”
During the meeting, Arredondo said 77% of vehicle break-ins happen when cars are unlocked. This is an example of information religious leaders can pass on to their church members to lower the crime rate. Sometimes it just takes a simple reminder to help people engage in safe behavior, such as locking their cars.
“It’s not a good feeling to be a victim of a property or violent crime, and we do not want our citizens to feel violated,” Arredondo said. “We look for creative ways to get information to you.”
Property crimes, or crimes of opportunity, are easier to prevent than other crimes, such as aggravated assault, which is a moment in time. The police department employs a crime analyst with a master’s degree in mathematics who helps plot crimes for prevention.
“We can almost plot it (crimes of opportunity) and tell you where it’s going to happen,” Arredondo said. “And that’s the information we want to get to you.”
The police department has 10 vacancies. The chief asked meeting attendees to spread the word. The department has turnovers when officers leave for other cities, but the city manager and the city council are helping with pay and benefit issues, which will remedy problems with retention, Arredondo said.
“We all have to be in this together. We all have to work on retention; we all have to bring in new applicants so we can stay fully staffed and meet response time goals and crime reduction goals,” he said. “If you know someone who has a servant’s heart, who loves to serve, who wants to be in public service, there’s nothing better than being a Victoria police officer. Being part of the Victoria Police Department is something to be very proud of.”
Arredondo also used the opportunity to ask for the religious leaders to pray for the police officers.
“Pray for us, make sure we are lifted up and loved. This is a tough job we have, and at times it can be difficult to move forward,” he said. “But knowing we are in your prayers and have your support and your lifting us up goes a long way. I don’t miss the chance to tell the officers how much this community cares for us. It’s probably the most important thing. Keep us in your prayers.”
A representative from Parkway Church expressed the church’s support for the police and its desire not to defund the department, an idea that has become popular in some parts of the country recently.
Arredondo said 90% of the police department’s budget is salaries, so defunding means layoffs, which he does not want.
“When you mess with the police budget, you have to have a plan in place for who will answer those calls, because when you call, you expect us to come, and when we don’t show up, that’s a problem,” he said.
Going forward, the police department and religious leaders will meet either monthly or quarterly to discuss crime trends and statistics, and tips for preventing crime. They are working out the details.
“I took the position in Victoria and haven’t looked back. It’s been a great transition. The community has been good to me, and the officers have embraced me. I’m lucky to be here,” Arredondo said.