“We can do better.”
That was the message Assistant Brownwood Police Chief James Fuller repeated to the Brownwood City Council Tuesday as he followed up on complaints from citizens about loud, nighttime gatherings at Coggin Park that disrupt the peace of the neighborhood.
“Sgt. (Jesse) Mares met with a concerned citizen about that,” Fuller said. “I think one of the greatest things to come from this is, Sgt. Mares himself put the word out to all of his peers, to his supervisors in the police department and said ‘we can do better.’ And he said ‘this is what I intend to do to do better.’”
Fuller said one step to take is to increase signage in the park indicating that “noise nuisance, boisterous assembly and things like that are not going to be tolerated in this area.”
Beyond that measure, Fuller said, it’s needful to increase police presence and enforcement in the area.
At the March 26 council meetings, three residents of the neighborhood around the park told council members issues with young people, congregating late at night and being loud, have come and gone, but lately seem to be rapidly escalating. They described scenarios including young people racing pickups on the streets, doing donuts and burnouts, revving engines loudly, playing loud music and harassing and intimidating neighborhood residents.
The offenders seem to know when police come around because they get quiet when officers show up, the residents told council members.
One of the residents told council members a neighbor thought she could “go talk to those kids. So she went out, she said ‘I ran back because I thought I was going to get beat up.’”
Another resident told council members, “I just think something could be done to help up here. Our little neighborhood is so nice during the day. It is quiet. You can open your windows. And then school’s out and it all starts up.”
One of the residents said she’d called the police department and had a good conversation with Mares. She said Mares told her he was going on night shift this month and “his unit is very aware of this problem and will make others aware of the need for increased patrolling.”
After the March 26 council meeting, Fuller said by email, “The basic gist is that we, as a department, do take these calls seriously and will work to improve the area referenced. We will increase our presence and enforcement of city ordinances and state laws already in place.
“It is unfortunate to hear how these family’s lives have been impacted and I can assure you it is not what we want for our community.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Fuller, speaking during the “Reports” section on the agenda, said, “Sgt. Mares beginning on Friday will make it his priority to do better at Coggin Park. But since he put the word out, all of the officers have made it a priority.”
Fuller noted that Coggin Park is an open area and sound travels dramatically.
“I myself sit there in my wife’s minivan parked incognito, trying to catch them doing wrong, and you’d be amazed at all the sound that you can hear coming across from the basketball court, the playground, all the way to First Street,” Fuller said. “But there are problems there.”
Fuller said he spoke to a neighborhood resident recently who was confronted by a group of men during the day. “Their comment was, what have we done wrong?” Fuller said. “She had an opportunity to just let them know what they had done wrong. And it was a very police respectful conversation. So I think that as will went a long way.
“But the basic gist, the recommendation from the police department will be to increase the signage as well as our efforts increasing enforcement. We just need to have a better presence there as a police agency. Sgt. Mares has taken on that that challenge and I think he’s doing a wonderful job with discussing that amongst his peers. When our officers are working calls, they’re working calls but when they’re not they’re swinging by Coggin Park.”
Fuller also said he’s spoken with a resident who has ideas about having security cameras at her home and “that’s something we have access to,” Fuller said.
Fuller said most of the problem behavior occurs after dark, but it has occurred in the middle of the day as well. Police recently were called to the park at lunchtime because someone was doing donuts in a vehicle, Fuller said.
“We need to step up our game, and I think the police officers are all for it,” Fuller said. “We use the word enforcement. And we’re not out just to write tickets.
“There’s a lot of officers who are going to sit there, get out of their Tahoe, visit with them, communicate with them, nag them as a brother would, a father, however it may be.”
Mayor Stephen Haynes suggested that the topic be put on the agenda as another report, probably in early July. Haynes also suggested that the residents who spoke earlier to the council be invited back to give updates.