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Published on April 17, 2024
San Antonio's Violent Crime Rate Dips 37% in Hot Spots Following New Police StrategySource: Google Street View

San Antonio is witnessing a significant drop in violent crime following the introduction of a new hot spot policing strategy, according to city officials and a report by the San Antonio Police Department. After a year of increased police presence in designated high-crime areas, the city has seen violent crime rates in these "hot spots" plummet by nearly 37%, far outstripping the overall citywide decrease of 7%. This shift comes after four consecutive years of crime rates trending upward, bringing a wave of relief across communities affected by the scourge of violence.

In an effort to strategically reduce violence, SAPD partnered with criminologists from the University of Texas at San Antonio to implement the initiative that directed officers to park their patrol vehicles in these hot spots with their lights flashing for 15-minute intervals during peak crime times. This approach appears to have disrupted criminal activities, leading to a marked decrease in violent crime within the targeted blocks. However, Rob Tillyer, the UTSA criminologist and one of the architects of the plan, cautioned that while there's clear evidence to suggest a correlation, it's challenging to definitively claim a causal link between the police strategy and the citywide reduction in crime. "The fact of the matter is, it’s working," Police Chief William McManus said in an interview obtained by Express News.

As the hot spot policing enters its second phase, which is slated to begin this summer, the focus will shift from mere police presence to addressing the underlying conditions that foster criminal activity. The second phase is described as "problem-oriented, place-based policing" and will aim to improve environmental factors such as lighting and access to essential services in areas like the hard-hit Rosemont at Highland Park apartments on the East Side. Tillyer told San Antonio Report that this strategy will be layered on top of existing efforts in an attempt to tackle the root causes of violence.

Despite these optimistic results, there are concerns regarding SAPD's capacity to maintain a balance between the new strategy and routine patrols and response calls. "Assigning too many officers to the hot spot initiative disturbs the balance that we’re trying to create," Chief McManus told attendees at a recent City Council meeting, citing potential capacity limitations if too many officers were to be reassigned to focus solely on hot spots. Furthermore, calls for more comprehensive community involvement have been voiced by officials such as Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, who has been notably critical of the hot spot phase and is seeking to have his office play a more significant role in the plan's development, as found in a statement obtained by San Antonio Report.

Looking ahead, City Council is poised to deliberate on the fiscal year 2025 budget, considering the results of the policing initiative and the prospect of hiring additional officers to expand the successful strategy to more areas. These discussions will play a crucial role in shaping the future of crime prevention and community safety in San Antonio.