The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

August 15, 2013

Palestine Police Association members help with community project

By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Despite the looming threat of summer thunderstorms, members of the Palestine Police Officers Association, along with Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert, helped a citizen “police” his undeveloped property this week.

PPOA members on Tuesday participated in a community project aimed at reducing complaints of vagrancy, trespassing and other illegal activity on private property adjoining businesses along W. Palestine Avenue near Tennessee Street.

Department officials reported the undeveloped wooded lot “had become a popular site to use drugs, alcohol, and provide a means to carry on prostitution and other illegal activities,” according to a release from the Association.

“This apparently has been an ongoing issue, and with the landowner in poor health, we decided it was appropriate — on our own time and with the owner’s blessing — to assist by placing no trespassing signs on the open lot, as well as spraying purple paint on the perimeter tree line,” PPD Patrol Commander and Association member Jeff Powell stated in the release.

Purple paint is identified under the Texas Penal Code as the universal notification of private property and prohibits trespassing on private property, especially on undeveloped or wooded acreage.

“We felt that the painting, along with posting the trespassing signs, would give leverage to the owner to rid the area of the problems that have been occurring over the last several months, including panhandling; people sleeping in the wooded area; leaving trash, and other debris; as well as urinating in the area,” Powell stated. “People become uncomfortable when they are doing business at an establishment, and are approached while in the drive-thru or on their way out of a store. Helping the property owner by posting signs and establishing his right to own the property without trespassing occurring is the least we can do.

“Chief Herbert and I canvassed the property (earlier this week) and found two gentlemen who were actually from Palestine, or had relatives living in town, but chose to hang out in the area. We learned this as we were trying to provide some shelter for the gentlemen, such as the Salvation Army in Tyler. It blew me away that they were local, and actually had homes to go to.”

Powell said Palestine police will continue to patrol the area and will be checking up on the property and removing any further violators through the first week after Tuesday’s posting.

“Continued violations will likely result in criminal prosecutions being filed,” Lt. Powell stated.

Powell said any other Palestine residents experiencing similar problems in their neighborhoods are urged to contact him by calling the Palestine Police Department, 903-731-8471, or emailing jmpowell@palestine-tx.org.

“It may be an issue that can be handled best by the association, or it may be a problem that can be addressed by the department,” he stated. “Either way, we are looking to solve problems here within our community. We also want to help people who want help — humanity should be concerned with destitute people. Either way, through social programs, or law enforcement, there should be a balance where we can deal with issues that arise within our community.”