A spate of homicides in a small Texas town has led to an upsurge in media attention and probing questions about the police department.
Recently, the Dallas Morning News reported how the East Texas town of Longview has recorded six homicides in the first two months of the year, which exceeds the homicide rate in the whole of 2014.
Given that the town only has 81,000 residents, the upsurge of violence has alarmed residents and law enforcement officers alike.
“The recent spasm of violence has startled residents of the small oil-and-gas town and focused more attention on a police department already under scrutiny for the death of a 17-year-old with a history of mental illness,” reported the Dallas Morning News.
Police said the 17-year-old, Kristiana Coignard, was killed by police after charging officers in the lobby of the police station while she was carrying a knife. Her death was captured on video and the footage has been widely circulated. The report stated it remains under investigation is not included in the police department’s official homicide count.
The marked rise in killings was picked up in the local newspaper, the Longview News-Journal, which reported that the rate of killings this year has already topped the national yearly average of 5.3 for homicides per 100,000 people. Last year, the city recorded five homicides.
The killings have sparked events including a march organized by a church that attracted more than 100 people.
“We’re letting the neighborhood know this is an alert and we’re going to take a stand and not be silent anymore,” LaDarian McGee, youth director for Bethel Temple of Longview, said in the Dallas Morning News report.
Most of the killings have been recorded in a low-income area south of downtown, and all but one of the victims was a minority. The Dallas Morning News reported the area contains rundown homes that are now inhabited by drug dealers and their customers.
“Longview is no different from a lot of communities,” Mayor Jay Dean stated. “A lot of these problems stem from the drug trade.”
Police have announced additional patrols to fight violent crime and have been told to get out of their cars to meet local people more than previously. City leaders are reported to be working to increase the number of police officers in the town, from about 150 now to 172.
“We have all the incentive in the world to try to reduce crime,” Dean stated.
Factors such as the environment of a city and the actions of a police department are relevant when charges such as murder or manslaughter are brought. If you are charged with a very serious crime of this nature you could face a life sentence or even the death penalty. It’s vital to hire experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys.