Police chief says he’s pleased with citizen involvement in preventing crime

Sharna Johnson

Clovis citizens get an “atta boy” from Police Chief Steve Sanders, who said a reduction in violent crimes for the second year in a row shows proactive citizen involvement is helping keep Clovis safe.

In 2010 violent felony crimes —murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped by 9 percent in Clovis and a total of 23 percent since 2008.

Of the 257 violent felonies recorded in the data, two of which were homicides, Sanders said virtually all occurred between people who knew each other.

For instance, in aggravated assaults, accounting for the highest category with 184, Sanders said he remembers a handful of the incidents were the result of burglars beating each other up because one thought the other had given the police information.

In most of the cases, they were “heat of the moment crimes of passion” or retaliation between people who had a dispute, he said.

With recent census data setting the population count at 37,775 and 257 violent crimes, Sanders said, “I’ll leave it up to the people to do the math,” but what those characteristics translate to is a community where the average person doesn’t have to worry about being a crime victim when they are walking the streets of Clovis.

Sanders, hired as chief in October 2008, is reluctant to take credit for the change and instead said it is the community working with his officers to defuse violence before it escalates.

Sanders said he believes the number of violent crimes, when paired with an increase in 911 calls, shows citizens are more willing to report problems when they see them.

“People are taking a more active role in calling us when they see the argument break out instead of waiting until the crime’s already happened,” he said. “We’re getting there before the crimes actually being committed … When people recognize that violence is (happening and call), cooler heads prevail and we get a chance to interact with them.”

Gang and anti-bullying programs in the schools may have contributed some to the reduction in violent crime. But overall, Sanders said the single most important factor is community involvement and he said his officers would much rather respond to preventative calls even if they turn out to be nothing.

“The more info we have to work with, the more we have to solve the crime. We’d much rather be called when the suspicious activity isn’t anything than respond to the burglary after it’s already over with,” he said. “They’ll keep calling and we’ll keep coming and solving crime.”

In the last two years, the department has overcome recruitment issues, and with 59 officers on its rosters has a nearly full house. It is a blend of seasoned officers and new faces, including the addition of four female officers where there were none before.

Officers rotate shifts every three months and follow a community policing strategy, spending time patrolling both the east and west districts, Sanders said, which keeps them familiar with the community and gives them fresh perspective.

Sanders said Officer Daron Roach, newly appointed as community relations officer, is planning monthly community programs at North Plains Mall and officers are also developing gang and vandalism programs.

In the near future — he wouldn’t give specific dates — Sanders said his department is planning two warrant sweeps to try and locate suspects that have managed to avoid arrest.