Constable Victor Trevino calls this initiative the Street Crimes Investigation Team, SCIT for short, and it's made up of his Deputy Constables and volunteers from his civilian community liaison groups. He says everything comes down to response time. You can have the best equipped officers in the state but what good are they if they can't get to a crime scene fast enough to make a difference? His team members are on duty around the east end almost 24-7, in position to respond quickly to civilian reports of crime.
"We want to make sure that when people call us about a suspicious house, vehicles in the neighborhood, a lot of traffic usually involving gangs and drugs, we want to have a special squad that's going to investigate to really tell us what is really going on there."
Trevino says this is different from Neighborhood Watch programs, because criminals have ways of knowing who the neighborhood watch people are and will retaliate against them. Trevino says that's often a hindrance to law enforcement, and it's why he doesn't want people to know who is on his investigation team.
"Cause you know that these crooks go to these neighborhood watch meetings. They're sitting there in the crowd, listening to all the tips, all the information. These meetings I'm going to have with these civilians are going to be confidential meetings that are not going to be open to your general public."
Trevino says he's had this program in operation for about six months, working quietly, to see if it's worth the time and effort, and the good news is "yes", it is worth it because it's working. He says his team of officers and civilians has made several major drug busts.
"My officers are doing the outskirts and the civilians are the ones that are calling them in. They've made probably about fifteen arrests, they've already shut down several crack houses throughout my precinct."
Trevino says he runs criminal background checks on all civilian volunteers to make sure the wrong people don't get into the program. The civilians have also been trained in police policies and procedures, identifying probable cause, search and seizure methods, how to use police radios, and generally be extra eyes and ears for the officers who carry the guns. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.