Chief: LHPD focused on slowing
movement of drugs through The Hill
(Posted: July 6, 2009)
While he hasn't compared the statistics to other small towns this size, Liberty Hill Police Chief Randy Williams says he is concerned about increased drug activity in Liberty Hill as evidenced by the number of arrests his officers are making for drug possession.
In one month alone, he said local officers made 20 arrests for marijuana possession. And while the number of arrests for controlled substances is not substantial, it has increased dramatically. For example, in March 2008, the department made three arrests for controlled substances and at the same time this year, there were 20 arrests.
"That's a lot for Liberty Hill," he said.
The LHPD, which is frequently criticized for the number of traffic stops it makes along SH 29, is focused on slowing down the movement of drugs through the community, Williams said. Williams, who has served as chief since the police department was created in 2006, said 95 percent of all drug arrests made in Liberty Hill stem from traffic stops. The remaining 5 percent come from Liberty Hill schools.
"I know that some people get offended when we ask whether they have drugs in the car. But, to be fair, we ask that question of everyone we stop," he said. "A traffic stop is an opportunity to stop drugs from coming into our community."
Roady with Police Chief Randy Williams (left) and Captain George Nassour (right).
Williams and LH Police Captain George Nassour trained Harley, a German shepherd, to sniff out drugs. Nassour regularly takes Harley on patrol where he is utilized to help find drugs. The officers are also currently training Harley's 6-month-old puppy, Roady. Recently, the team certified for narcotic detection with the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association
Williams said the amount of drug activity in the schools indicates there is a need for a police officer there. But, he believes the officer should be under the supervision of a law enforcement agency rather than the Liberty Hill Independent School District. Before the Liberty Hill Police Department was created, the officer assigned to Liberty Hill schools was a school district employee who answered to the school superintendent -- a civilian without law enforcement experience.
Generally, in communities where there is a need for full-time police presence on public school campuses, the local law enforcement agency has a school resource program. The school resource officer is an employee of the police department or sheriff's office and is under the supervision of a licensed peace officer rather than a civilian. Williams said that's the way it should be for law enforcement purposes.
Currently, local school officials call the police department when they find drugs or drug paraphernalia on a school campus, Williams said. But, police officers are not involved in any type of organized prevention program in LHISD. LH police officers do not come to campus unless they are called, he said.
LHPD has five paid police officers, including Chief Williams, and five reserve (not paid) officers. He says he needs more officers so that he can cover every shift. With vacation time, sick time and training time, it's a challenge to keep an officer on the street at all times, he said. The City of Liberty Hill has applied for a grant through the Department of Justice's COPS program that if approved, could fund two officer positions for up to three years. Williams said he hopes to hear some good news on his application this fall.
In the meantime, officers will continue to do what they can to slow down drug activity, which Williams says is linked to an increase in the number of burglaries in Liberty Hill. (See related story
M&L Pharmacy has been targeted twice in six months by burglars seeking drugs. The second time, LH police apprehended the suspects after they received a tip.
Jardin Carona Restaurant has been burglarized repeatedly -- the most recent reported June 14. Officers found the empty cash drawer on the following day a short distance from the restaurant.
Across SH 29 from First Baptist Church, a welding business was burglarized on June 15 with various tools and equipment reported missing. Also in June, the bar on SH 29, Crazy Eights, was burglarized.
Williams said criminals have figured out when officers are on duty and when they are not. He said the increase in burglaries, all of which occurred during late night hours, is linked to drug use.