Montrose Civic Association Raising Money To Hire Another Constable
Two years ago, the Winlow Place neighborhood of Montrose was hit with a string of burglaries and armed robberies. One homeowner, running late for work, came downstairs to find someone in his kitchen; several others were robbed at gunpoint on Westheimer. “Whenever we met at our neighborhood socials, crime and safety was the big topic of conversation,” recalled attorney Michael Hawash. He and a few other neighborhood leaders began brainstorming ways to address the crime problem. They considered hiring private security guards, or off-duty Houston Police Department officers, but eventually settled on the Harris County Constable Patrol program. The program allows neighborhood associations to hire a designated constable to patrol their neighborhood 32 hours a week. While on patrol, the constable can respond to calls, write citations and tow cars. They also have special mental health training.
Within six weeks of announcing the new program, Hawash had raised $80,000 from neighborhood residents, enough to fund the patrol’s first year. Operating out of Harris County Precinct 1, led by Constable Alan Rosen, the patrol made an immediate and dramatic difference. “The crime in our neighborhood dropped significantly,” Hawash said. “Unfortunately, it actually went up in the neighborhoods around us. We were pushing the undesirable elements to other neighborhoods, since ours became a little more secure.”
To solve this new problem, Hawash began meeting with other Montrose civic associations, giving them advice on how to set up their own constable patrols. Soon, Vermont Commons, Park Commons, and the Museum Area Municipal Association (MAMA) had each added their own programs. The civic associations also began coordinating their patrols to make sure that at least one constable was always on duty during the highest-crime times of day.
The latest neighborhood group to get in on the act is the WAMM (Westheimer Alabama Montrose Mulberry) Civic Association, which is currently raising money from residents to begin its own constable patrol. “HPD is stretched way too thin—we probably have about a third of the police force in the city of Houston that we need,” said Lane Llewellyn, the president of WAMM’s board of directors and a member of the Montrose District board. “And the budget for hiring police officers and emergency staff has been curtailed. So we’re looking for a police officer who will know who we are, who will know when we’re on vacation, that understands the area.”
To get even more bang for its buck, WAMM plans to coordinate with the other civic associations and the Montrose Management District’s well-regarded Montrose Patrol. “When one constable is off, the others pick up the slack,” Llewellyn said.
Fundraising for the constable patrol is being led by local CPA Michael Salinas, who lives on Harold Street. So far, he’s collected half of the 100 subscriptions necessary to fund the patrol, which could begin as early as October 1. At only $400 per year, the subscriptions are a small price to pay for greater security, Salinas said. “If the HPD’s average response time is 6-8 minutes, we’re trying to get it to 3-4 minutes,” he explained. “Sometimes, seconds matter.”