PLANO (CBS 11 NEWS) – Plano has been named the “Best Run City in America” by the investment website “24-7 Wall Street.” The site looked at the city’s unemployment rate, education level and dramatically dropping crime rate, which is at its lowest level since 2000.
Plano police say part of that credit should go to civilian volunteers who patrol the city’s streets.
Neal Katz, one of the city’s 217 volunteers, wears a uniform and drives a marked vehicle. However, he is not a sworn police officer and does not get paid. The city credits the volunteer program from decreases in both violent and property crimes dating back to 2000.
In 2012, 363 violent crimes were committed in Plano, 6,474 property crimes and 11,704 total crimes. Compare that to the statistics from 2011, when 12,397 total crimes were committed, 388 of them violent crimes and 6,777 of them property crimes.
“We’re additional eyes and ears for the City of Plano,” says Katz. “ We should get some of the credit for the crime drop. We’re part of the overall team.”
The team of volunteers assists the city’s 342 police officers. Volunteer officers not only patrol higher crime areas, they’ve also been used to man the six sky watch towers, which help stop car break ins. Volunteer officers can’t make arrests but they can write parking tickets and report suspicious activity.
“Ninety nine percent of the people we deal with give us full respect. They thank us for what we’re doing,” explains Katz. “I’ve had women offer to kiss me as a thank you. Occasionally, when you write a handicap parking citation someone might get a antsy, but it’s minor.”
Police are also utilizing social media to distribute neighborhood watch bulletins to encourage citizens to be more vigilant in their own communities.
“You have to find ways to make the best use of funds that you have, and that’s what we’ve done,” says Plano Police Spokesperson David Tilley.
For the past two years, Plano has been named safest city in America with a population of more than 250,000 people by Forbes magazine. It will likely keep that award after the latest crime statistics.
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