The typical SAPD patrol officer, working with a partner, goes from call to call to call. They deal with one issue and head immediately to the next. There’s not a lot of time for working on underlying problems.
That, says San Antonio Officer David McCall, is the reason for the SAPD’s SAFFE program. We sat down with Officer McCall in Hemisfair Park in late May to talk about the program.
SAFFE (pronounced ‘safe’) is an acronym for ‘San Antonio Fear Free Environment’, a program established by the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) in 1994 with sixty officers and which quickly grew to one hundred.
The SAFFE Officer for King William and Lavaca -- David McCall -- met with us early one morning at Hemisfair to talk about the program.
Unlike regular patrol officers, SAFFE officers are expected to work on relationships with the residents and businesses in the areas to which they’re assigned. Their purpose, according to the Department, is to ‘prevent crimes before they happen’ and to act as liaisons between their neighborhoods and city agencies.
Officer McCall works out of the Central Substation at 515 South Frio, and he’s responsible for both Lavaca and King William. It’s only recently that his area got narrowed to focus on those two neighborhoods. A second officer has recently been assigned to Officer McCall’s territory and will be taking over Lone Star and Roosevelt Park.
“That’s going to be a huge help,” Officer McCall told us. “I haven’t felt like I was able to give some issues the attention that I wanted to, because there was just so much going on. I was kind of scattered all over the place, working on so many things.”
There are additional resources that he can call in when it’s appropriate. One in particular that he finds useful is a special team made up of personnel from the SAPD, the fire department, and healthcare services. When we spoke with him, he was scheduled to work with that team later in the day, responding to an ongoing mental health issue in King William.
“There’s a guy there we’re trying to get some help to,” he told us. “He’s having a lot of confrontations with neighbors. So I’m going to have them in, and I love having that help available.”
He has access to a lot of resources, he pointed out, but in order to bring them to bear, he has to know what’s going on.
He starts each day looking at calls that came in overnight, and he also looks at crime stats on his computer.
“I have software where I look at crime stats,” he says. “I can say ‘show me everything that happened in Lavaca in the past week’, and I export it to an Excel spreadsheet, sort it, and I can see that maybe I got a spike of thefts going up and down Presa. Well, that tells me I need to go out there and work on that.”
That means it’s important that crimes get reported. If they don’t show up in his stats, if nobody tells him about it, it’s like it never happened.
Sometimes people think a crime is too minor to report, Officer McCall told us. “Some people feel like, ‘well, they just stole a potted plant off my porch; I’m not going to bother the police’, but maybe that person was going down the street, stealing packages and whatever they could grab.”
In a situation like that, Officer McCall said, he can do a real investigation and even get property crime detectives involved.
He encourages anyone in Lavaca and King William who is having issues to contact him directly. He can be reached both by phone and by email.
His office phone is 210-207-7413.
His email is email@example.com
He says that he checks email constantly, and he always responds to messages left on his voice mail.
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.