Fort Worth, TX

Police force increasing at half the pace of residency

Southside Matt

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Fort Worth Police Department PatchCity of Fort Worth

At the turn of the century, Fort Worth was considered by many to be one of the safest places to live in the U.S. If something untoward happened, it seemed that a police officer was virtually just around the corner to respond and assist. The police force was so prevalent that it was not uncommon to find units located throughout the city protecting the roadways with so-called speed traps. It also was a regular occurrence to see the mounted patrol around Downtown, particularly around Sundance Square.

In most parts of the city, this has changed that one can often go weeks without putting eyes on a police vehicle. Anecdotal reports of incidents of teenagers and those in their twenties rummaging through vehicles early in the morning can be found on most neighborhood apps or social media pages. Incidents of aggressive driving throughout the city, both on sidestreets as well as on the major highways, is also on the rise. Even with no victims involved, gunshots routinely ring out in various parts of the city once considered too far from the city center to experience such activity.

The United Nations recommends a ratio of one police officer for every 450 members of the population. Fort Worth has not met that ratio at any point in the 21st Century, although it was close at the outset. In 2001, Fort Police reported 1240 civil service employees (officers), to cover a population of 566,402. That equated to one officer for every 457 residents.

In the two decades since, Fort Worth has boasted of being the 13th largest city in the country, as reported by moving.com, and the 3rd fastest-growing in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Department.

As such, one would hope that public safety would follow the trend. Instead, the police force has increased at roughly half the rate of the population. From 2001 to 2021, the population of Fort Worth increased from 566,402 to 938,055, a difference of 371,653. The police force, though, has only increased by 423 officers, from 1240 to 1663. That is a ratio of one new officer for every 879 new residents, over one-and-a-half times the UN recommendation. Numbers provided by Fort Worth Police Department and City of Fort Worth.

As a result, the ratio of officers to residents currently sits at 1:564.

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Fort Worth Population and Police Force 2001-2022Southside Matt

Even though crime statistics seem to indicate that crime is lowering in Fort Worth despite this ratio, residents are feeling less safe with each new day. Reviews of postings on apps such as Ring’s Neighbors or in Facebook's neighborhood groups seem to indicate increases in shootings with no injured victims, vehicle break-ins, and suspicious persons lurking in neighborhoods. Many times, the postings indicate that the incidents are not reported or that the police response fails to take any substantive action.

Citizens blame the mayors for having misdirected priorities. Cindee, who requested that her last name not be used, recounted to Southside Matt how she would ride the bus, then affectionately referred to as “The T,” from the far southside of Fort Worth to Downtown through the early 2000s. Cindee recalled seeing the mounted patrols and bicycle officers even if she was returning from Downtown at night.

“I wouldn’t dare go Downtown at night by myself now.”

She says that, while mayors such as Betsy Price have been busy beautifying the Downtown area and creating attractions to draw new residents, the safety of those already here has suffered. She describes seeing videos on her neighborhood’s Facebook page showing youths checking car doors at 4:00 am. The comments accompanying the video ask if anyone called the police, only to get replies that it wouldn’t do any good because the youths would be gone by the time they arrived, even if they were able to show up.

Similarly, dangerous “nuisance” events have increased, as well. Residents of the Deer Valley neighborhood situated between Garden Acres and Rising Road have bemoaned the new Amazon facility that was recently completed in the area. As part of the construction, Old Burleson Road was improved and converted from a two-lane asphalt road to a smooth, concrete three-lane roadway. This has invited street racers, both solo and in pairs, to try their hands at the new strip of flat, almost perfect “track” that was created.

As other news outlets have recently exhibited, the far south side of the city is not the only area affected. KDFW, the local FOX affiliate recently reported on similar incidents that have residents of the John T. White neighborhood living in fear.

While incidents such as this cause a nuisance to the nearby neighborhood, with the squealing tires and the thoughts of what happens if other traffic appears, they are only the tip of the iceberg for what a lack of police power has created.

On April 20, the Deer Valley neighborhood was terrorized by a drifting party that has become all too common around the city. A group of “more than 100 vehicles” according to a police sergeant had commandeered the intersection of the I-35W northbound service road and Garden Acres Drive to perform their antics. Their drifting and donuts were accompanied by fireworks and gunshots, causing a disruption to the local area’s sleep and relaxation as well as to traffic through the area. The police sergeant indicated that, despite calls by local residents, they were not dispatched until the party disrupted an emergency response by an ambulance that became trapped on the bridge crossing over I-35W.

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Street DriftersDepositPhotos.com

Comments regarding that incident on the neighborhood’s Facebook page blame a “lack of execution” on the part of FWPD to stop the incident. What the residents fail to take into account is that the city is lacking in police staffing to meet the needs.

To reach the UN’s goal of one officer for every 500 residents, Fort Worth requires an additional 213 officers on the force. This goal would require a total of 1876 officers to patrol the reported 938,055 residents of the city for the year of 2021, whereas the department currently has 1663 civil service employees.

Over the past twenty years, the population of Fort Worth has grown by 371,653 residents to begin 2021, a 65.6% increase over its residency of 566,402 at the beginning of 2001. The police department, in contrast, has only grown at a rate of 34.1% from 1240 officers to 2021’s 1663.

Despite this pace of growth being just over half that of the population, Fort Worth Police boasts of a lowering crime rate. Based on anecdotal evidence, this follows a theory long-practiced in law enforcement. If a crime is not reported, or if no true evidence of a crime is discovered, then the crime is considered in statistics. If response times extend such that people stop calling, then the crimes they would otherwise be reporting cannot be considered for inclusion in statistics. Similarly, if officers show up to the report of a crime but do not find evidence, either through the lack of evidence or through the need to conclude the call quickly to move to the next one, then that also does not get included.

This is not to accuse Fort Worth Police of actually practicing these methods of lowering crime statistics. Instead, it is to provide an example of what could happen when a police force is less than 90% staffed according to recommendations.

Since 2000, the population of Fort Worth has risen by an average of 2.72% year-over-year, with some years as high as almost 6%. In contrast, the police department, which started the century with a ratio of 1 officer for every 457 residents, has only grown an average of 1.5% year-over-year on average, with some years actually seeing a decrease in the number of officers.

For 2021, the adjusted police budget for salaries and benefits was $240,725,881. The average pay was $102,540.72. Granted benefits are not included in the $102,540.72 figure, this still averages out to allow for over 2000 employees. The police department does require additional employees, as well, which would also need to be included in that total.

With an increase in the population of such magnitude that Fort Worth has experienced and continues to experience comes an increase in revenue through property and sales taxes. The current mayor seems to have placed a higher focus on improved roadways based on the repair construction sites found throughout town. Previous administrations, though - and this to some extent includes the current mayor - seemed to focus on projects that were designed to attract new residents, such as the scandal-laden Panther Island Project, instead of making sure that the infrastructure, including police security, are in place to support that population growth.

Residents from all parts of the city are calling upon city leaders to turn this trend around and provide the funding that is needed to the police department to ensure that officers are able to provide the security that the city once enjoyed.

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Hailing from the Great State of Texas, South Side Matt monitors government for compliance with the Constitutional values that founded the United States, and works to maintain liberty for all in that spirit. His articles focus on furthering this cause, but also occasionally go "off track" into lighter topics such as cooking, general life and others.

Fort Worth, TX
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