More crime, fewer cops. That's the assessment of Texas in the latest FBI crime statistics for 2017. The report shows the rate of violent crimes increased last year in the Lone Star State, from about 434 incidents per 1,000 people to about 439. At the same time, the ratio of police officers fell from about 2 officers per 1,000 to 1.5. Only seven states had a lower officer-to-population ratio than Texas.
While many analysts point out that more data is needed to make a direct correlation between higher crime and fewer officers, Charley Wilkison with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) thinks there is a direct relationship between the two. "Now the chickens are coming home to roost," he tells KTRH. "Violent crime has spiked, and it's a direct result of the fact that we have a recruiting, hiring and retention crisis in policing in Texas."
Wilkison cites many reasons for that crisis. "It's because of the retirements across the state, and it's because of a failure in recruiting," he says. "People aren't interested in doing the job---it's a difficult, violent, and stressful task. Also, (local departments) are being stretched very thin from call to call, as staffing is dropping." Also not helping is the fact that Texas is the deadliest state for cops killed in the line of duty.
Solving the problem will take leaders willing to create better incentives for young officers to join the ranks of police, according to Wilkison. He points out that many local governments no longer guarantee a pension for young officers. "Why would you, as a young person, go and invest your life for the next 25 years in a risky, often violent, misunderstood profession, and risk the chance that you wouldn't even get the (retirement) that you worked so hard for," says Wilkison.