Recent shootings and reports of shots fired in the city limits have prompted the La Marque Police Department to step up night patrols and deploy a special task force to hit crime hotspots.
The increased patrols will be sent to areas such as Lake Road where many shots have been reported, Chief Randall Aragon said. The special response team, which typically works on high-risk apprehension cases, will be employed full time to only target crime and drug hotspots, he said.
“If we hear of an area that there’s a lot of crime taking place, or we even think is taking place, it’s going to be addressed,” he said.
Officers regularly respond to nighttime calls of shots fired, although the number of such calls hasn’t increased recently, Aragon said. But although police arrive within minutes, there often is no one to arrest, he said.
“Unfortunately, there’s no one going to be standing holding a pistol or a rifle because they’re gone,” he said.
The increased police presence comes nearly a year after a joint task force of local and federal law officers arrested more than 120 people as part of an anti-gang effort called Operation Washout. The operation followed a violent year that ended with multiple shootings.
Aragon said he didn’t know whether the shootings and shots fired in recent months were connected with those caught up in Operation Washout, but La Marque isn’t alone in the gun violence.
“We’re not the Lone Ranger on this matter,” he said. “It’s happening all over the county.”
Firing a firearm within the city limits is a class C misdemeanor, which can carry a $500 fine, Aragon said. And firing at or near a residence or vehicle is a third-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, he said.
In addition to making residents feel unsafe, firing a gun within city limits poses safety problems, Aragon said.
“What goes up must come down,” he said. “And people have been killed by a bullet penetrating their skulls.”
The city has considered using technology like ShotSpotter to detect gunshots, but the cost is prohibitive, Aragon said. ShotSpotter uses microphones placed throughout an area to detect gunshots and alert police, according to the company’s website.
The technology can cost up to $95,000 per square mile each year, according to The Associated Press.
“I need to place our time and money on the human resources,” Aragon said.
The city has focused heavily on increasing safety in the past year. Mayor Keith Bell previously said he wanted La Marque to become the safest city in Texas, and he started a Safe City Initiative to achieve that goal.
But achieving it will take time, Bell said.
“The war against crime is a war that will be long and drawn out,” he said. “But in the end, we will prevail because good always prevails over evil.”
The most effective way to increase safety in the city now is for residents to tell police more than just that shots were fired, Aragon said. They also need to give the names of those who are shooting, he said.
“I want to know who’s doing it more than just shots fired,” he said. “Because we get there and they aren’t there.”