By CLINT FOSTER
The first year of Project 365 is in the books, having been declared an overall success by the City of Mineral Wells.
The project focused on a concerted effort to combat crime in the southeast part of town through a process of highly visible law enforcement, cleanup and restoration, among other things.
Statistics in the year-end report presented to Mineral Wells City Council on Tuesday show a 6-percent decrease in overall crime in the southeast side of town from 312 to 292 incidents of criminal activity. This – coupled with successful efforts to rid the community of “blight,” as Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan said, by picking up 50,000 pounds of trash and fixing up dilapidated properties – primarily provided the incentive for declaring the first year of Project 365 a success. But, to paraphrase Sullivan, there are several complexities and multiple facets to look at regarding crime, even in a city the size of Mineral Wells.
“It’s a long-term venture,” Sullivan said of Project 365. “This template is just a pathway toward the greatness that Mineral Wells truly holds.”
A closer look at statistics concerning the target area of the project – a roughly 24-block square area from S.E. 6th Avenue to S.E. 14th Avenue east to west and Martin Luther King Jr. Street to Municipal Highway 379 north to south – show a 41 percent increase, from 46 to 65 incidents, in the same criminal-type profile over the last year. The bulk of these crimes were burglaries of habitations, theft and vehicle burglaries.
However, even this statistic is somewhat misleading. A histograph plotting these crimes in the target area showed that crime, especially property crime, was largely under control for most of the year except for a few spikes during short periods. The biggest spike, which contributed the most to the inflated numbers came during June. Sullivan pointed out that at this same time, many transient workers with roofing companies were in the same area.
The southeast part of town, in particular Project 365’s target area, remains the most active “hotspot” for crime in all of Mineral Wells since before last year. Now with a second year of the project beginning and a smaller, better-defined target area, Sullivan hopes that relief is in sight.
“I believe this is a good model with shown successes,” he said. “We didn’t absolutely win the war, but some of the things we have accomplished, those are gains. That’s moving in a positive direction.”
Sullivan expressed a great deal of thanks to the many volunteers and groups that helped in the execution of Project 365, but also encouraged even more community involvement in any way possible. He further encouraged people to use the many tools available now, such as Neighborhood Watch or Report It – a free service that allows people to register valuable property, so that if stolen, police can more easily track it to locations like pawn shops.
“With a little bit more neighborhood and community involvement, whether it’s participating in cleanups or just putting on a fresh coat of paint (we can continue to make progress),” he said. “We’ve got dedicated volunteers who have demonstrated their care and concern and given of their time, which is a precious commodity, to come out and help neighbors they probably don’t know and rid the community of its blight. This is very proven logic when it comes to criminal justice.”
Sullivan emphasized the importance of cleaning up community blight to helping solve any crime problem. He saw this same method successfully used during 25-years of police work in Fort Worth. It’s all part of Sullivan’s ultimate goal to bring Mineral Wells back to the greatness it once enjoyed as a destination city and beyond. Sullivan said this is a matter of changing people’s perceptions.
“We try to attack the blight that gives people the perception that Mineral Wells is something that it’s really not,” he said. “Is there crime here? Yes. Is there a drug problem here? There are drugs in every community. The challenge is how can we, as a community, get people to understand the importance of getting involved. Working together, we can truly make Mineral Wells a great place to work, live and play.”