Councilor: Needles found around area biggest complaint
NOTE: This story has been edited to correct officers’ salaries.
KINGWOOD — Kingwood hopes to nearly double its police force over the next two fiscal years.
The city has two full-time officers now and offered a job to a third officer, who has to complete polygraph and psychological exams before starting.
“Last summer, last year we had quite a few issues, but we only had one officer on duty,” Mayor Jean Guillot said.
He noted there have been recent break-ins at the city pool, where a pump was damaged, and last summer people were sleeping at businesses. City police believe they are fighting addiction, not homelessness, the mayor said.
“Ideally an increased police presence is going to be a deterrent to some of the activity,” Councilman Josh Fields said. Overwhelmingly last year, he said, the biggest complaint was all the discarded needles found in town.
Councilman Dick Shaffer said a fourth officer is needed. Guillot agreed and said he would like to add a fourth officer in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, then a fifth the following year.
“I did some research, and a town this size of 3,000 people, by the state numbers and national numbers, we should have five and a half officers. So five full-time and one part-time officers,” he said.
One of the city’s police cars will be paid off in September, so it would be good to purchase an additional cruiser, Guillot said.
Resident Carolyn Turner asked how crime in Kingwood compares to towns of comparable size. Chief Charlie Haney said the statistics wouldn’t be accurate because Kingwood has been understaffed for some time, so no one was working to respond and record statistics.
Officer Doug Montague said he has started work on a COPS grant, which would pay 75% of a new officer’s salary the first year, 50% the second year and 25% the fourth year. Then the city would pick it all up.
“Well, even in Kingwood it’s not safe for only one officer to respond,” Shaffer said.
“They’re traveling in packs, two, three, four, like that,” the chief said of the roaming people residents complain about.
Only three other towns in Preston have officers, which stretches the sheriff’s department and state police in their ability to help, Guillot said.
Another challenge, Councilman Mike Lipscomb said, is attracting officers. Haney said maybe the new way is to hire officers retired from elsewhere.
Guillot said Kingwood’s salary is competitive with other towns now. Montague, who is experienced and certified, started at $41,600 a year, and council offered the third officer, who is certified but less experienced, $36,400 yearly.