Groves crime stats remain flat; local leaders talk reasons for recent improvement
Published 12:19 am Friday, March 6, 2020
GROVES — Crime statistics for Groves in 2019 are relatively flat compared to the number of crimes the previous year.
The city didn’t see any murders while the number of rapes remained the same, seven. Robbery is down to nine from 13 in 2018 and theft cases are down to 215 from 231.
Two categories did increase. Aggravated assault is up from 51 in 2018 to 68 in 2019 and auto thefts are up to 31 from 20.
Groves City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr. said the total number of index crimes have dropped with 2018 being the lowest in a number of years. In 2018 the total of these crimes was 385, while in 2019 that figure was 389. Prior to these years, the figures were in the upper 400s and higher.
Reynolds credits the hard work of his officers for the keeping the numbers low.
“I can’t help but believe they’re responsible for keeping the numbers down as low as they are,” Reynolds said.
Groves Police Department has been short staffed for several years, like other agencies including Port Arthur, which pays much more, he said.
At one time, GPD was the lowest-paying police department in the area, which is a problem when competing for jobs with other agencies and industry.
“Last year we negotiated a contract with the city that put our pay in the hunt, and we are no longer the lowest (paying police department),” Reynolds said. “As a result I’ve been able to get back to full staff and hired an individual last week. For the first time in a few years, I was able to hire somebody with experience.”
Previously the police department hired officers fresh out of the police academy. The newest officer arrived with 3½ years’ experience.
Starting pay is approximately $27 per hour for entry-level officers. In addition, the department alternates pay where one year employees receive a cost-of-living adjustment and the following year a “step raise,” which is 5 percent for those eligible to the next step. Patrolmen have seven steps total.
This allows Reynolds to hire an experienced officer on the pay grade level with his or her experience.
In addition, the department is funding tuition for a second cadet at Lamar Institute of Technology’s police academy in anticipation of hiring the person if he or she passes all requirements. Reynolds said retention rates for officers are down across the nation.
“Everybody is having a hard time keeping an officer, finding qualified offices and retaining them in the long term,” he said. “We say we’re in the best situation we’ve been in in a long time. We have a very good group of young men and women and are very satisfied in the progress made over the last several years.”
Staffing and crime
As a result of the department being fully staffed, Reynolds has been able to put his street crimes officers back on the streets along with the patrolmen already on duty.
For example, during a shift Feb. 21 there were 60 traffic stops made and of those nine arrests: four on warrants, four for driving while intoxicated and one methamphetamine case.
Reynolds offered thanks to the city council for working with the department.
Groves Mayor Pro Tem Sidney Badon said Reynolds is doing an excellent job.
“He turned the whole force around,” Badon said via phone when asked about his take on the crime statistics. “It’s all due to Norman. His leadership has turned the police force around. We have more officers than we have had in the last 10 years. He has been able to get people to stay and he worked real hard to improve our police force tremendously.”