By GRACE GADDY
The Palestine Police Department was alive and well last year, according to a yearly report Chief Robert Herbert presented to members of the Palestine City Council Monday.
Forty slides of facts broke down activities of the department in 2013, which consists of 23 sworn officers, four cadets, seven dispatchers, one records clerk, an evidence technician, two administrative assistants, one community liaison and two animal control officers.
According to the presentation, the year 2013 yielded: 23 robberies and four aggravated robberies, 140 burglaries of buildings, 278 burglaries of private residences, 476 burglaries of vehicles, 812 thefts, 475 assaults and 70 driving while intoxicated offenses (DWI). Traffic enforcement handed out 1,830 citations, gave 5,236 warnings and made 42 arrests, including 98 arrests from citations.
While Herbert did not reveal statistics from 2012, he reported to the council, “I can tell you the numbers went down.”
As for traffic conditions, the department responded to 434 reported accidents in 2013, involving 785 vehicles, 180 injuries and five fatalities. The intersection at Crockett Road and Loop 256 saw 24 of those accidents, which Herbert reported is the most dangerous intersection, according to the data.
Herbert also drew attention to the fact that 95 firearms were stolen in 2013, which he attributed largely to people leaving their doors unlocked.
“I think we've got the better handle on that,” Herbert said, “but there's still a lot of guns out in our community right now that have not been recovered.”
Councilman Steve Presley asked Herbert if there was additional administrative work that could be done to benefit the department, and Herbert referenced the Citizens on Patrol program, which educates and authorizes citizens in the community to carry out police duties on a voluntary basis.
“If we can do it on a volunteer side first, I want to try to do that,” Herbert said.
Councilman Vernon Denmon gave the program his stamp of approval, which he said is something “new for Palestine” – and beneficial.
“Because what concerns my neighbor concerns me also,” he said, speaking to citizens in general. “We appreciate you.”
Also during the meeting, Mayor Therrell Thomas expressed condolences for the loss of longtime Councilman James Yelverton, whose services on the council spanned 12 years.
“We appreciate Mr. Yelverton's service to the community, of giving of his time and efforts and energy,” the mayor said. “His spot is missed on the council but not in our hearts.”
In other business, the council:
• APPROVED an airport land lease for a hangar by Johnny Haley.
• APPROVED a resolution to accept a finance contract with the Government Capital Corporation for the purpose of procuring various essential equipment. The agreement calls for five annual payments beginning October 15, 2014 in the amount of $49,756.43 with an effective interest rate of 3.20 percent.
• APPROVED a budget amendment for fiscal year 2013-2014 to increase retail fund revenue.
• APPROVED a budget amendment for fiscal year 2013-2014 to increase retail fund maintenance and repair / building of a Sanderson Farms structure.
• APPROVED an expenditure of $19,450 for roof repairs at the Palestine Mall.
• APPROVED an expenditure of up to $150,000, potentially, for computer and software upgrades for the City of Palestine and various departments.
• APPROVED an expenditure of $37,823.10 to rebuild the rotation assembly and replace the gearbox for the centrifuge at Town Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
• APPROVED an ordinance granting a specific use permit request submitted by David Parker for an automotive repair facility at 601 N. Church St.
• APPROVED a residential replat combining lots 11, 12 and 13 of the Twin Oaks Addition into one single lot being Lot 11-R. The property is located at 707 Alpine St., at the north east corner of the intersection of S. Loop 256 and Alpine Street.
To wrap up the meeting, council members Vickey Chivers and Vernon Denmon spoke favorably of Black History Month, taking place this month, and encouraged the public to attend a program sponsored by Palestine Walmart Supercenter celebrating black history and promoting “justice, equality and opportunity,” Chivers said.
Councilman Will Brule will speak during the event, which will take place at 7 p.m. today at Palestine Walmart.
Chivers also noted that First United Methodist Church, located at 422 S Magnolia St, is looking for individuals who need minor repairs to their home. Interested parties can contact Chivers or church member Danny Smith. The church's phone number is 903-729-6205.