The Wild West in San Antonio:
Rampant Lawlessness & Crime
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
March 16, 2006

Not too terribly long ago Pace Picante ran a TV ad in which several cowboys from the Wild West were portrayed out on the range, eating picante sauce. One asked where the picante sauce came from and one of the cowboys answered, "New York City", to which another of the cowboys answered, "New York City? That really chaps my hide!"

Today we do not think of ourselves as living in the "Wild West", but some of what we see certainly must qualify us for "Wild West" status. I am speaking to some of the nonstop burglaries on Broadway just north of downtown and surely all over. An area destined for a Renaissance along with the north reach of the San Antonio River, today it looks like a "no-man's land" after dark. But hey, there are businesses there that contribute to or detract from people's lives!

If our City is going to develop the near downtown areas, we simply must improve the security of people's properties and certainly their physical safety as well. A good friend of mine who is trying to do business estimates that in the past two years in which four separate burglaries occurred, rampant Broadway crime has cost him $100,000.00 in equipment and merchandise, including the repair of broken doors and windows.

The experience if not the expense in this area is apparently not unique. This business owner and I went by to visit other neighbors who might know of further victims of property crimes in this area. It took no time at all to obtain referrals from a waitress working in a local restaurant. One area business person said that a piece of art was stolen in broad daylight from a sidewalk display. Another nearly adjacent sixty-something year-old garage owner attempting to make extra money for his children and grandchildren has had a series of unabated thefts and break-ins at his property.

Upon visiting another local garage, a worker advised that thieves broke into a motor home inside their locked fence. The thief left a note that said, "I was here at 2:00 a.m. and left at 2:34 a.m." What unmitigated gall!

In speaking with a local auto dealer on Broadway, he said that one of his car lots on Loop 410 has had equally incredible experiences of lawlessness to that which he has had on Broadway! I know firsthand that Broadway is not the only place with "in your face" crime. My wife had about seven of her students' locked cars broken into while the students and she were inside her dance studio located in another area on a recent evening!

So, enough complaining! How about some solutions? Like jail population management discussed below, there is no single "silver bullet". The most immediate solution appears to be a more concentrated effort in the impacted area(s). Also, business neighbors must know and communicate with each other from time to time. A meeting with authorities will take place.

Role of the Jail in Crime

As Chairman of the Commissioner's Court Jail Population Committee, I have attempted to have plenty of space for the bad guys while seeing to it that not one single cell is occupied by someone who has no business in our jail. The reason for responsibly managing jail population is that the failure costs tens of millions of dollars over just a couple of years' time. Failure to manage the criminal justice process not just the jail also contributes to crime in its own way. How the criminal justice system deals with those who are incarcerated is of vital interest to our County.

If a Sheriff is likened to a hotelier, managing those sent to his or her jail, the Judges are like travel agents sending inmates to jail, not just on a trip. The important thing is that the entire process is filled with numerous valuable employees that have some impact for good or bad, on the sound functioning of our process. The Judges, the Sheriff and other County personnel are definitely working to responsibly reduce our bloated jail population.

Perhaps Bexar County needs an added component similar to Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona. You could be in jail, but it may be in a tent without air-conditioning. It will not be a "cushy" experience. You will work and work hard. You will not relish going back to the jail and therefore, you will tend to not do those things that took you there in the first place.

I am neither the law nor its enforcer. I do however have a leadership role in attempting to make things better. What I have seen in the way of crime is more than something that "really chaps my hide"! It cannot and will not be tolerated without a fight.

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