A standing-room-only crowd filled St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church for the Oak Forest Homeowners Association town hall meeting on the rising crime problem in the neighborhood Wednesday night.
The meeting featured several speakers including Houston City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, Houston Police Department Captain Tom Runyan and Harris County Precinct One Constable Alan Rosen, but it centered around the option of contracting Precinct One deputies to patrol the neighborhood.
“The people are tired of becoming victims, the people are frustrated,” Rosen said. “The answer they’ve heard from other (law enforcement) agencies is stay inside your house. I think that’s the wrong approach.”
Rosen, who took office in January, said his deputies patrol the neighborhood as part of their duties.
A number of civic associations and management districts hire extra constable deputies to patrol their respective areas.
In that set-up, the HOA pays 70 percent of the deputy’s salary, with Harris County paying the remaining 30 percent.
Under the program, the Constable dues aren’t mandatory, which means that some residents pay for the services that benefit the entire community.
“We can do this – you can take that to the bank,” said Oak Forest HOA treasurer Phil Simmons.
Rosen did a presentation about the contract deputy program. He said Precinct One’s response times are between three and five minutes.
Rosen said the increase in property crimes is directly related to the increase in home construction. For example, a potential burglar may go under the radar in a neighborhood if someone thinks he or she is a construction worker.
Two HOA representatives. that use contract deputies were present at the meeting, Janet Maxian of Braeswood Place Homeowners Association and Terry Jeanes of the Garden Oaks Civic Association.
“It’s not easy, but we feel it’s important,” said Maxian, who has had the contract deputy program in her area for 27 years.
She noted that Oak Forest is four times larger than Braeswood Place, which has five deputies who provide “high visibility” by patrolling the neighborhood, 24/7.
Jeanes said the program’s three deputies have been beneficial to reducing neighborhood in Garden Oaks. They started the program with just one deputy.
“These (deputies) are wonderful,” she said. “(There’s a saying that) it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to deter the crime.”
Capt. Runyan noted during his presentation that every crime except robberies decreased in Oak Forest.
“No other area in North Houston saw a decrease in crime like Oak Forest did,” Runyan said.
Runyan said HPD is taking the recent rash of robberies “very seriously” and urged the community to continue to work with the department on addressing the problem.
The recent outbreak of nine robberies is the second such crime wave in Oak Forest in the past year. A similar wave of robberies in driveways of homes occurred last fall.