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Lamar Street Projects and Crime Trends Discussed at Council Work Session

 

South Main Street Alleyway Before Repairs

 

The Lamar City Council received a two-fold briefing from Pat Mason, Public Works Director and Lamar Police Chief Kyle Miller during an information-oriented work session this past Monday, February 5th.

Mason gave an update on street improvement projects over the past five years, made available through the council’s budget for street, curb and gutter repairs and maintenance. Mason, working from a city map, showed the progress made on the city’s road system since 2013, listing the streets as Poor (need to be rebuilt or overlay), Fair (need crack seal or rejuvenate), Good (new within the last 6-10 years), Dirt (gravel unpaved roads) and areas comprised of rotomilling materials. “In 2017 we had 28.49 miles listed as Fair.  The Good listing has also increased, so we’re putting more into Good, decreased the streets in bad condition and we’re developing a general improvement for all the city streets,” he explained, adding, “Over the past thirty years we’ve put more money into the street improvements in just the last five.”

The street department provides repairs as needed and improvements determined mostly by need and age. Mason said, “In 2015 our overlay project impacted 1.86 miles and we chip-sealed 1.55 miles of streets.  In 2016 we did 2.98 miles and 0.72 and last year we overlayed about a half a mile and chip-sealed 3.37 miles in the city.”    He estimated 19% of the city street system received repairs, accounting for 11.3 miles.  The City of Lamar has just over 62 miles in its road system.  “Some of our larger projects included a recent two inch overlay along Yucca Drive and South 14th Street, Bishop Street and the Valco Road leading to the North Gateway Park was leveled and graded,” he explained.

Other upgrades included replacing storm drains and the curb and gutter system at Oak and Division, the corner of 10th and Beech and Park and 10th as well as extensive work adjacent to the Lamar Christian Church at 4th and Chestnut, parts of Willow Valley, 12th and Cactus and the paving job for the Willow Creek Pharmacy parking lot.  Mason added that because of the Main Street project, some side streets such as 4th or 6th have had increased traffic and he’s keeping an eye on the conditions of those roads.  He said there will be several striping projects done this summer for pedestrians and bicyclists, along Savage Avenue and around Willow Creek Park.

For the past three years, the Lamar Police Department has used a software program to track and report on the incidence of criminal activity in our community, highlighting the nature and frequency of reporting crimes and calls for response throughout the city. Lamar Police Chief Kyle Miller explained to the council, this now gives his department a means of identifying trends and hotspots by which the department can increase their patrols.

One information graph displayed a range of calls to dispatch for the police department from 1999 to 2017 in three categories; calls where a physical response by an officer was required, calls in which an actual case developed and calls for Code Enforcement Officers. As an example, there were 1,069 code calls in 1999, but that had increased to 3,850 by 2017.  “That’s something we expect to see increase, whether it’s for a lost dog or a derelict vehicle or tall weeds in a yard,” he said adding that the code calls comprise almost half the ones received by the city each day.  In 2015 total calls for response were at their peak at 19,619 and had declined to 17,456 for this past year.

Miller displayed other statistics for the ten most prevalent types of crimes, ranging from thefts, trespass, assault, robbery, criminal mischief or DUI’s. Controlled substance calls ranged from 52 in 1999, declined to 24 in 2004 and started to climb, registering 76 in both 2008 and 2009 with a jump from 68 in 2014 to 135 in 2015.  There were 117 responses the past year.

The software system also tracks the individual locations of crimes by their nature within the city limits. Chief Miller chose controlled substances to display how the information is provided to the department.  Several graphs over the past few years highlighted the areas of Lamar from which calls were received.  Chief Miller explained that these were not based on arrests, but on calls reported to the department.   “One reason some of the numbers are decreasing is because these people are now in jail for a longer period of time,” he explained, adding one offender took a plea agreement and received a 71 month sentence in the Department of Corrections.

The controlled substance response charts for 2015 through 2017 shows some geographical trends, notably a good deal along North and South Main Streets, and more to the western side of Main Street than the eastern portion. By the same token, more calls or arrests are received north of Olive Streets while the southern section covers a larger geographical area.  “The more data we have the more accurate the results we receive.  I’m interested to see the trends in 2018 as we’ve issued some search warrants on a couple of streets and I want to see if there’s a migration from those hot spots.”  Chief Miller added, “There are several houses where we’ve served more than one search warrant for drugs and one house had three warrants and it’s different people every time, but at the same house.”

Chief Miller said the city plans to secure another drug dog from a Texas company that trains shelter dogs which are available at no cost, but there was no timeline on the action. It would involve having an officer train with the dog in Texas for several weeks.  “It’s time we started moving in that direction,” he said.

The council agreed to conduct a future retreat to review a mission statement and upgrade their goals for the city, sometime in the early spring.

By Russ Baldwin

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