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2011 Monthly Meeting Reports

(Click on the month to download a copy of the month's report so that you can print out.)

May 2011
The presentation was about Hurricane Preparedness. The Red Cross representative brought up the excellent point that, with cell phones, we don't know anybody's phone numbers anymore and, without power, and evacuating, or losing cell phone, we couldn't contact important people. It was suggested we download and use the Red Cross contact card in our wallets. To download click here.

July 2011
At the June meeting, we were treated to a demonstration by a member of the Explosive Detection K-9 Unit – a beautiful, friendly Belgian Malinois, trained at Lackland Air Force Base. We were also informed of two new internet avenues of communication with HPD:
1) An online Alert Slip is now available at www.houstonpolice.org - click on “contact HPD”, click on “Alert Slip” in the drop-down menu, then click on “West Side Division”. With the form that appears, you can request special attention from HPD because of going on vacation, or being concerned about real or suspected criminal activity
2) Another internet convenience is when you wish to report a non-vehicular theft or criminal mischief loss of less than $5,000 when there is no injury, evidence or suspect; an example of this would be if a bicycle is stolen from your yard, and you only need a case number for insurance. There is a link to “Online Report” on the HPD website for this convenience.

Those who attend PIP are also invited to a monthly Chief’s Citywide PIP meeting downtown. I did attend in July and Chief McClelland expressed relief that he had managed the necessary budget cuts by laying off only civilian workers, not officers, and by shortening the storefront hours but not closing any storefronts. He welcomes the return of red light cameras not only to deter injury and death from traffic accidents, but to save financial resources; he noted that the cameras don’t complain about heat, cold and rain - and do not collect overtime for their 24/7 shifts. Another cost-cutting measure is that officers will no longer respond to “minor accidents”, which are defined as those with no injuries, with both cars drivable, and with both parties insured – either party can go to a storefront and file the report for insurance purposes. The Citywide program was an HPD Narcotics Investigator reporting on how Mexican drug cartels are affecting Houston.
The PIP meetings are informative, and always include some snacks. In my opinion, the greatest benefit is establishing a more personal relationship with the officers who work in our neighborhood. This enabled me to see that HPD enforced the “No parking” signs in front of the mailboxes at the northeast corner of Ashford Hollow and Overbrook – now I can turn left from Ashford Hollow to Overbrook without risking my life!

September 2011
The speaker at the September 15 program was Stephen HJardedegree, supervisor of Houston's FBI Counterterrorism force. He outlined his extensive and varied background, and that of his team, and explained what their territory and tactics were. He explained that their methodology was slow but thorough, and amused us by reporting that the young man who made the mistake of stealing his GPS out of his vehicle in his own driveway last week is already behind bars. He also encouraged us not to make assumptions about, or to pre-judge, any citizen based upon their skin color or religion, as his experience has taught him that would be a mistake.

Announcements included:

A new Houston311.org website which is more user-friendly. It is organized by functional area and lists an index of City services. For example, one can find "dog park" information under "A" for "animals", "D" for "dogs, or "P" for parks. There is a "How to Use This Site" link on the left hand side of the home page.

Neighbors Night Out is Tuesday, October 4, and all neighborhoods that plan activities should return their participation pledge form to PIP Coordinator, Officer A. C. Sterns, as soon as possible.

A reminder of westside.tips@cityofhouston.net to report neighborhood criminal activity and of www.houstontx.gov/police/online_report to report non-vehicular theft up to $5,000, with no suspects or witnesses, or non-vehicular criminal mischief up to $5000 with no suspects of witnesses.

Citizens are encouraged to turn in unused or expired medication on Saturday, October 29, for a Living Drug Free Starts at Home initiative - check www.dea.gov for locations.

November 2011
At November's Positive Interaction Program, our new HPD Westside commander, Captain Michael Skillern, reported that crime was continuing to decrease in all areas except theft, and that was mostly in apartments. Westside Robbery Division's Officer Fontenot presented the types of crimes that his group investigates: robberies, aggravated robberies, extortion and theft from persons - and explained the differences. They have 56 investigarors, who each average 140 cases per year and, amazingly to me, he stated that it is often easier to locate the suspect than to locate the complainant, as people tend to want to accept their loss and move on with their life. Officer Fontenot stressed that it is important to "Be a great witness, not a hero." If you are robbed, or witness a robbery, get a detailed description of the suspect, look for "stand out" things like tattoos, and write down everything that you saw as soon as you can safely do so. Westside Robbery Division's phone number is 281-584-4904.

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