- Alex ZIelinski
- Mayor Ivy Taylor speaking at Thursday's press conference.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus wants to be clear: San Antonio is an incredibly safe place.
"I’ve heard a lot recently that San Antonio is unsafe...To respond simply, these comments are inaccurate," McManus told reporters at a Tuesday press conference. "San Antonio remains one of the safest major cities in the country. Period. End of story."
But neither McManus nor any other law enforcement leaders in attendance gave much insight into what they've done differently to improve the city's safety.
The announcement from officials served as a check-in with the city's "Violent Crime Task Force" — a new program made up of city, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to track and arrest violent San Antonians with a "significant criminal history."
According to McManus, the SAPD's already arrested 977 people that fit that description this year, a feat Mayor Ivy Taylor called "impressive." He did not provide data on how that number compares to past years. If it's higher than normal, however, it could be because the number of violent crimes have nearly doubled in the past year. According to the city's online records, the SAPD tallied 729 violent crimes in January 2016. This January, the department recorded 1,247.
McManus attributes this massive sweep to a new policing model the department has rolled out. Instead of just patrolling certain neighborhoods in hopes of catching violent criminals, like through the SAPD's 2016 "Eastside Initiative," this new force follows particular individuals that already have criminal background. Judging by a map of 2017 arrests, it looks like most of these arrests took place in Eastside and Westside neighborhoods.
This task force came, in part, as a response to the city's 8 percent rise in violent crime in the past decade. While some criminal experts have tied this increase to the region's growing population and extreme economic segregation, McManus says the causes are still unclear.
"Now, neither criminologists, police chiefs, academics — nobody can identify specific reasons for an increase in crime," McManus said. But Bexar County District Attorney has an idea.
After warning reporters to not spread unnecessary fear, LaHood said this increase in crime he is due to "the deterioration of our moral compass in society."
"The definition of right and wrong has been skewed and people are making up their own rules," he said. "We’re seeing the jungle mentality out there."