Special Report: Police Patrols

ABC-7 examines the affect of East El Paso's growth on law enforcement

ABC-7 Special Report: Police Patrols

EL PASO, Texas - The far east side of El Paso is constantly changing. When the city grows, so does the area the El Paso Police Department has to patrol.

ABC-7 reported Thursday how the city and county lines in far east El Paso aren't as clean-cut as they were in the past. The changes are brought on by city annexations.

"The area for us has gotten smaller to patrol," El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy Manny Marquez told ABC-7. "But the number of people that have moved out here has increased."

For the police department -- that increased population all falls into the Pebble Hills region. That region stretches from the city limits on the far east side to Robert E. Lee Road in Central El Paso and from Montana Avenue south to I-10.

It may not be the largest command region in square mileage, but it is in population.

U.S. Census data from 2010 showed the population of the Pebble Hills' region at 217,737. It's more than double the populations of the Central and Mission Valley regions, with 84,673 and 104,050, respectively. And it nearly doubles the Northeast and Westside regions, with 116,433 and 125,647 populations.

Police Commander Patrick Maloney has seen Pebble Hills grow since taking over six years ago.

"It creates more work for everybody," Maloney said.

Maloney says Pebble Hills officers handle on average 271 calls a day, outpacing last year's daily average of 252. In 2013 -- Pebble Hills handled more than 92,000 calls.

"Obviously, the higher priority calls are answered first. But the lower prioity calls will sit until there's time to answer them," said Maloney, adding, "It's not too uncommon for us occasionally on weekends to take 8-12 hours to get to some of the low-priority calls."
The wait time was shocking for some far-eastsiders.

"Oh my gosh," exclaimed Gracie Desantiago, who has lived on the far eastside for several weeks. "What do they define as low-priority? I think it's fair to let us know what that is."

Low-priority calls include disturbance calls, such as a loud party.

It was not surprising for others.

"There was a party out by our house, a bunch of kids fighting outside, and we called the police but nobody came," said east side resident Butch Duncan.

Soldier Luis Rivera-Miura told ABC-7, "About a month ago I called the police. There was a person I thought didn't live here ... by the time they got here he was gone."

"We look for alternate ways to handle it depending in the nature of the call, maybe we can handle it over the phone," Cmdr. Maloney said. "Or maybe it's a call where the person can drive into the station and meet with the officer working the desk."

Maloney said currently, the Pebble Hills Regional Command has roughly 100 officers dedicated to patrolling the east side. When asked if he thought that was enough, he responded, "Obviously, if you ask any commander or chief, they're going to want more personnel. I wish I could have more personnel. I would take 100 more officers, no questions asked."

"We can't just hire 100 police officers overnight," said Deputy City Manager David Almonte, adding there is a plan in place to put more cops in East El Paso with the creation of a new regional command. Almonte said that has been in the works for the last three years. He didn't want to elaborate on the exact location where the city was looking to buy.

"We had to try and decide what is the best location to put that facility where it helps create the least amount of response time and the provide coverage of the area," Almonte told ABC-7.

In the meantime -- Almonte and Maloney ask for east siders and far east siders to be patient.

"We tell people, 'If you're the victim of the crime, you don't feel like you're living in the safest city with a population over 500,000," said Almonte. "All we can say is continue to call 911 and we respond as best we can."

"We get the job done. We get the job done," Maloney said.

The city has scheduled a police academy for June.

Deputy City Manager David Almonte said he hopes to have City Council approve the purchase of land for the far east regional command within the next three months.

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