MIDLOTHIAN

As population rises in Midlothian, a higher demand is placed on first responders. The police department has factored the population boom into its plans to better serve residents of today and tomorrow.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported the city’s population at 23,689 as of July 1, 2016. The population has risen by 26.7 percent from the 2010 census. Records from the Midlothian Police Department show calls for service totaled 22,519 in 2017. Calls this year total 20,933.

Midlothian Police Captain John Span stated the department plans to create specialized units to help manage the growth.

One of the areas the department intends to grow is the criminal investigation division, as well as a Special Investigative Unit, which focuses its efforts on narcotics.

“As you know we are getting more specialized as the city grows. It used to be where we would have patrolman handle everything,” Spann said. “We will be adding another investigator to our special investigative unit that deals with narcotics.”

Spann shared the two officers who will form this unit will focus their efforts on drug-related crime in the city. The group will gather information where drug activity is taking place, which will help in enforcement. The second investigator is in next year’s fiscal budget, which starts Oct. 1.

The city has seen growth take place in its commercial sector, which has resulted in increased traffic on the roadway. The increase has prompted the department to create a commercial vehicle enforcement unit.

The unit will be made up of two officers that specialize in commercial vehicle enforcement. Officers are tasked with enforcing the federal motor carrier safety act rules, state laws as they apply to commercial vehicles and drivers, local ordinances that apply to commercial vehicles, the code of federal regulations as they apply to hazardous materials, and overweight and oversize vehicle regulations. The officers will investigate commercial vehicle crashes as well.

Spann explained the city had seen a rise in major accidents, which is when a person complains of any pain or injury. Last year police responded to 64 accidents through May 1, 2017. The number for this year has increased to 96.

“Our commercial vehicle unit will be specializing in investigations as a part of their job as well as the regular traffic unit,” Spann said. “They will go to advance accident investigation school to handle all of the accidents to try and get them taken care of.”

The Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments estimate by 2033 that truck traffic will increase by 25 percent on U.S. Highway 287, 38 percent on East U.S. Highway 287, 35 percent on North U.S Highway 67, 61 percent on South U.S. Highway 67, and 32 percent at the Railport.

Outside of specialized units, the department has budgeted to add eight new police officers. The department has also hired three new sergeants this year.

Spann said the growth has caused the department to look at its daily operations, as well. The department currently operates four patrol districts. A district is an area that an officer is responsible for patrolling. The department plans to add a fifth district in October.

Spann noted the new district would help to provide a better quality of service to residents.

Along with the additional district, the department seeks to designate two sergeants in a new supervisory role. One sergeant would be over the north half of the city and the other over the southern half. The dividing line is U.S. Highway 287.

Spann stated the position would help to keep a supervisor free when multiple calls are happening at once.

The facilities the department currently occupies on U.S. Highway 67 is ongoing an evaluation to maximize available space.

In November, voters denied a bond that would have constructed a new police station.

Spann explained the station initially was constructed as a church in the 1970’s. It has been remolded over the years to fit its new law enforcement role.

“We do have to make some adjustments to make the building functionally better. We are looking at moving our dispatch center,” Spann explained. “It has gotten too small with four dispatchers in there. It is pretty hard even with their headphones you can hear a lot of the background noise. We are looking at moving them down the hall into a bigger room.”

The department’s professional standards unit composed of hiring; internal affairs, and the quartermaster have moved to the second floor of the building. The move has helped to increase the efficiency of the station.

Spann added despite the growth the city has not seen an increase in crime. The department will continue to work to provide quality service for residents while managing the new growth.