Overton redevelopment pushes crime to other neighborhoods

Returning home one night from a birthday party, the last thing on Ashley Branch's mind was that someone would break into her house.

As Branch, a junior pre-physical therapy major from Aspermont, approached her house, she said she realized something was not right.

A burglar had busted out a backdoor window, unlocked the deadbolt and stole items ranging from her laptop to a DVD player, she said. Branch said she could have taken preventative measures to avoid this event.

"Living in the area we did, we should've had a security alarm in our house," she said. "I felt so vulnerable afterwards."

Branch's rent house is located in the Lubbock Police Department's reporting District 3, the area south of 19th Street and north of 34th Street between Avenue Q and University Avenue. In District 3, 508 "part one" crimes were reported between September 2003 and September 2004, according to Lubbock police crime statistics. Part one crimes consist of homicide, burglary, robbery, rape, vehicle theft, aggravated assault and larceny, according to the statistics.

The crime rate for this area tends to be higher because the area has older housing with lower rental rates, said Sgt. Bill Casey of the Lubbock Police Department neighborhood services unit.

"It attracts folks that always stay in trouble," he said. "The crime has migrated from the Overton area to that area."

The North Overton area, between Fourth Street and Broadway and University Avenue and Avenue Q, is undergoing the largest private redevelopment project in the history of the United States by the McDougal Cos., said Mark Murdock, vice president for business development at McDougal Cos.

Casey said the buying and bulldozing of houses in the Overton area is forcing residents to find additional housing elsewhere.

To help residents of these areas feel at ease while on vacation, Casey said Lubbock police offers a patrol service free of charge.

"We do have a watch program," Casey said. "Anyone can call the police department and request their house be put on watch while they'll be gone."

Another area of Lubbock that could see an increased crime rate is reporting District 70, north of Fourth Street and east of Frankford Avenue, Casey said.

The continuous construction of new duplexes in reporting District 70 are providing Tech students with alternative housing options, he said. While the crime rate for this area is significantly lower than other reporting districts during the last year, with 55 part one crimes being reported, Casey said anytime there is an area with a growing population the crime rate will increase.

"Sometimes more people moving in does cause crime to go up," he said. "Also, there might be more crime being reported."

Citywide, the most frequent crime is vehicle burglary, Casey said. The number of vehicle burglaries in Lubbock is increasing, he said.

"One reason for the increase might be that it is no longer a felony, just a misdemeanor," he said. "People are not careful with their property."

During the 2003-04 school year, Maj. Gordon Hoffman of the Tech Police Department said the Tech campus was plagued with vehicle burglaries, but they have decreased this semester. He said the decrease is perhaps because of an increased awareness by owners to protect their vehicles.

"Burglary is usually a crime of opportunity," he said. "Burglars are typically cowards. They don't want to be detected."

Placing valuables in the trunk of a vehicle or out of sight can help detour burglars, Hoffman said.

"Seeing is enticement," he said.

Vehicle burglaries are not limited to the four-wheel type. Hoffman said the number of reported bicycle thefts on the Tech campus has increased.

"There have been 35 since the beginning of school," he said. "This is substantially higher than last year."

Registering bicycles with Tech Police is a preventative measure that Hoffman said he recommends.

"We encourage people to do that," he said. "More bicycles are stolen from residence halls than any other (place)."

In addition to moving, Branch said she now takes extra precautions when leaving her home for an extended period of time by hiding or taking valuables with her.

"It really made me mad just because of the lack of respect people have to steal things," she said. "We now leave more lights on and installed a security system."

Trimming shrubbery surrounding house windows, installing ample outside lighting and using deadbolts also are tips Hoffman said are useful in preventing burglaries.

"A lot of it is just common sense," Hoffman said. "But like the saying goes, 'If they really want it that bad, they'll get it."'

(Sally Gunter is a reporting student at Texas Tech.)
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