Although the number of arrests has remained about the same, the number of service calls for the Gatesville Police Department rose significantly in 2021, with a total of 19,272, Gatesville Police Chief Nathan Gohlke told the Gatesville City Council during a recent meeting.
Gohlke presented the department's annual report to the Council on Feb. 22, and said the 19,272 calls generated 719 reports "ranging from class C misdemeanor offenses to major felony crimes.
A total of 379 arrests were made during the 2021 calendar year, which was similar to the number for the previous two years.
Overcrowding at the Coryell County Jail has resulted in the number of arrests often being limited to the most serious offenses, Gohlke said.
"The jail was closed to us for pretty much all of 2021 except for felony offenses," he said. "We have a whole lot of municipal warrants that are unable to be served because there's no room (at the jail)."
Juvenile crime resulted in 18 arrests "for crimes that included burglary, motor vehicle theft, assault, sexual assault, criminal mischief and runaway" according to the report. The city of Gatesville has a curfew for those 17 and younger which was originally adopted in 2008. Gohlke said seven warnings were given and three citations were issued for curfew violations for 2021. That was down from 18 warnings and three citations the previous year.
"The first offense (for a curfew violation) is a warning – a citation is issued after that," Gohlke said. He added that in some cases, parents of the youth with multiple curfew violations can be given a citation, but he did not recall any instances where that had happened.
In 2021, Gatesville Police investigated 157 traffic accidents, an increase of 22 from the previous year. Officers issued 1,273 traffic citations, gave 1,360 warnings and made seven arrests for driving while intoxicated offenses during the calendar year.
GPD responded to 206 alarm calls in 2021, and 142 of these calls were determined to be false alarms. Those who register their alarms each year, as required by city ordinance, receive five free alarm calls within 12 consecutive months. Those who have more false alarms than that are charged a fee. In 2021, the city collected $300 in false alarm fees.
The city of Gatesville's animal control division responded to 1,264 calls for service in 2021 and issued 80 citations - with an additional 10 warnings given. In 2021, 296 animals were impounded or surrendered. Of this number, 11 were euthanized, 32 were returned to their owner, 81 were transferred to animal rescues and 67 were adopted. There were also 238 feral cats. Officers investigated 17 animal bite cases and quarantined five dogs in 2021.
GPD hired a new animal control officer, Douglas Glimp, who is also a certified peace officer.
"Our volunteers really help us out (at the animal shelter)," Gohlke said. "They are go-getters who focus on trying to get the animals a new home. Rescue organizers as far away as Montana adopt the animals."
Animal Control Officer Jason Holt is transitioning to be able to help with code enforcement issues.
"Code enforcement is still a work in progress – we still have a lot of issues with it," Gohlke said.
"The overall goal of the Code Enforcement program is to enhance the quality of life for our citizens by working with property owners to eliminate nuisances on their property," the annual report stated. "The process will not only make Gatesville a more attractive place to live, but will also help reduce the overall crime rate by eliminating nuisances and abandoned structures that provide opportunities for the criminal element.
"Unfortunately, code enforcement has not been a priority within our city for some time, resulting in many neglected properties. That, coupled with non-resident property owners, continues to slow our progress tremendously."
The police department received 149 complaints about code enforcement issues in 2021, 818 violation notices were issued and 12 citations were given. In 593 cases, property owners complied with code enforcement requirements.
The police department is still short-staffed, Gohlke said, noting that this is a problem throughout the state and also nationwide.
"So far we've been unable to fill vacancies," he said. "The city of Killeen is short 50 police officers, which is comparable to five officers for us."
Mayor Pro Tem Meredith Rainer asked if staff shortages were affecting enforcement.
"They are affecting us – we've got to get our staffing level up," Gohlke said. He noted that there is fatigue resulting from the staff shortages, and that officers often have more overtime than they would like.
"We are short two dispatchers," he said, adding that one new hire will be training to fill a vacancy.
Rainer asked if there was anything the department needed in addition to salary increases – which the Council recently approved – to attract new officers.
"I think it's time we started sending (officer candidates) to the police academy," Gohlke said. He noted it is a nine-month process for people to complete training.
"We've got to market ourselves," he said. "We have really good benefits and we have our pay where it needs to be. It's just tough (to hire officers) right now."
Councilman John Westbrook asked about the commitment required for officers for whom Gatesville would pay the cost to complete police academy training.
"It's at least a two-year commitment," Gohlke said, "or they have to pay back the cost."
Councilman Claude Williams asked if there are any safe places where people who feel threatened can go.
"The police department and library are safe places, and there are other safe places designated in town,' Gohlke said, adding that many crime victims may not be aware of the safe places.
Mayor Gary Chumley asked about Gatesville's crime rate compared to the state crime rate.
City Manager Bill Parry noted that statewide, there are an average of 26.67 crimes per 1,000 people statewide, compared to 13.1 for the city of Gatesville.