Town’s ACAP Program Comes Under Scrutiny

in Addison Texas Council by

The first item on Tuesday night’s Council agenda was an item that Mayor Chow requested be placed on the agenda.  It appeared to be a purely informative presentation on the Town’s Addison Citizens Assisting Police Program—better known as ACAP.  But after Chief Paul Spencer’s power-point presentation about ACAP he got a nearly 45-minute interrogation instead.  Although questions were expressed as just wanting to ensure the safety of the nine-member volunteer ACAP members—the frequently overstated rationale began to sound more reminiscent of the old adage—“Me doth protest too much.”

Most of the Council sat silently during the interrogation by Mayor Chow and Council members Paul Walden and Lori Ward.

For those unfamiliar with the program, ACAP is a group of volunteers who are certified to work in a law enforcement environment and have completed a Criminal Justice Information Security audit through the police department, which includes a background check, finger printing, security addendum and completion of ACAP training.  ACAP volunteers support the police force in non-enforcement areas such as park patrols, issuing Crime Risks and the vacation watch (Close Patrols) where citizens can put their homes on watch when they are out of town for extended periods of time like vacations or extended business trips.  By the volunteer ACAP members handling some of the daytime watches it relieves the police to handle issues that may be more critical.  All ACAP volunteers are provided with identifying shirts, caps, a windbreaker and a photo ID badge and they drive a clearly marked SUV.

One of the other things the volunteers have handled is patrolling commercial parking lots and other areas with parked cars to spot potential crime risks such as visible valuables left in cars.  They have also watched for garage doors left open—another crime risk according to police.  In such cases the ACAP volunteer leaves a “Crime Risk Alert” (an itemized checklist of observable items on a property to deter crime) to let the owner know of the risk.

The ACAP program has been in existence since 2012 and up until now has never been controversial or been questioned.  That all changed Tuesday night.

Walden, who let everyone know of his former career as a police officer, cloaked his unease with the program by saying that he was concerned that by volunteers going onto private property it put the volunteer at risk.  “It would be hard to get over if something happened to them,” he said, suggesting that by the volunteer walking onto a homeowner’s property and checking to ensure that no windows were broken or gates left ajar, etc., could put the volunteer in grave danger.  Throughout the interrogation Walden expressed this concern over and over in varying ways.

Mayor Chow went so far as to say that the volunteers shouldn’t get out of their car—something he repeated numerous times—and Lori Ward wanted to know if the car had a GPS tracking system on it so it would be known exactly where they were at all times.

Chow painted a verbal picture of a volunteer going up to a house when some “maniac” was there, or a “burglar” who would attack the volunteer—all that despite the fact that at no time is an ACAP volunteer authorized to enter a house.  In fact, Chief Spencer explained that past policy has been that if an ACAP volunteer saw anything questionable—like broken glass, a door ajar, etc., they were to radio in for police support.  Despite his explanation, Chow continued to stress this as a big concern.

Walden repeated numerous times his great concern for putting these citizen volunteers in harms way—to the point that it begged the question, what’s your real reason?  At one point, without naming any ACAP volunteer specifically, Walden even asked if it was possible to request that a specific ACAP volunteer not check a specific house.  The Chief responded that this would not be possible, as it would cause a managing problem.  Interestingly, Walden never brought any of these issues up during any of his past year on the Council, but suddenly, he seems extremely concerned about the volunteer’s safety. Walden never explained what prompted his sudden concern.  It did, however bring to mind a recent incident.

During one of Mayor Chow’s first Coffee’s Sabina Bradbury lodged a complaint to Chief Paul Spencer saying that she had heard that former Mayor Todd Meier was going to become an ACAP volunteer and that concerned her.  She vigorously claimed she and others were concerned about Meier being a part of ACAP but gave no specific cause for her concern, simply thrusting her personal opinion out to the group, thus the Chief had no viable reason to respond. However, the City Manager quickly intervened to say should there be any problems within ACAP it would be dealt with.  It’s these kinds of personal vendettas that serve little purpose other than thrusting unwarranted personal attacks on individuals and this latest move by Chow is looking suspiciously similar.

Lori Ward suggested that neighborhood watch programs be encouraged instead.  This Council member didn’t realize that these programs are well established in many neighborhoods with leaders who are continually urging other homeowner associations to follow suit.  Chief Spencer pointed out this fact and also advised her about the numerous safety programs put on by the Police Department.

Chow said that an individual had complained after receiving a Crime Risk for an open garage door.  Some FM readers found that quite interesting suggesting that it would seem that most people would be appreciative of this kind of warning.

The entire interrogation while couched as a safety risk for the volunteers, left several citizens asking—what’s the real reason this is suddenly an issue?  And FM has been contacted by yet others who found the entire interrogation to be insulting to those who have volunteered to provide this service.  And, in many ways, it was insulting.  It now also, instead of relieving the police, puts the major thrust of being more diligent about checking for broken windows or possible areas of entry hidden by shrubs and bushes, back solely on the police officer.

In the end Hughes, after thanking those who volunteer, joined his three colleagues and made a motion that ACAP volunteers should not enter residential private property.  Ward seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.  Al Angell, who had been silent throughout the entire interrogation, suddenly wanted to clarify that this meant the ACAP volunteers couldn’t drive onto a resident’s driveway.  The answer was “Yes,” as it would make sense that one’s driveway is part of one’s “private property.”

So, from hereon, Addison will have a purely “Drive By” ACAP Program.

DART Update

While it’s not quite time to formally announce “All Aboard” for the Cotton Belt, actions by two DART Committees on Tuesday (8/22) appears to indicate that the Cotton Belt Line and the D2 Line in Downtown Dallas, will be approved by the DART Board at their September 12 meeting.

On Tuesday, DART’s Planning and Budget & Finance Committees approved sending funding plans to the full DART Board for next month’s meeting.

Both committees approved sending Debt Funding Parameter Resolutions to the full DART Board as required by state law.  The next step in the process is creating two resolutions that link together both projects, using different methods of funding. The DART Board will be vote on each one on September 12.

The DART Board’s outside Bond Counsels addressed the issue saying it would be cleaner to have two resolutions instead of one resolution that includes both projects.

Another major step for both projects came Tuesday when the Budget and Finance Committee approved the 2018 fiscal budget and the 20-year Financial Plan which includes the Cotton Belt and the D2.  That too is subject to approval by the DART Board.

If the Planning Committee and the Budget & Finance Committee approve the actual resolutions on September 12, it is a foregone conclusion that the DART Board, composed of members of the Committee’s meeting that same evening, will give the final “yes” to both projects.

Tuesday, August 29 the Carrollton-Addison Area Focus Group will meet at the Addison Conference Center at 6:30 p.m. at the Addison Conference Center to focus on the Cotton Belt Line as it relates to Addison and Carrollton.  The Focus Group is to provide input on issues related to the Cotton Belt project.  This meeting is open to the pubic as well.

Upcoming Meetings

Tuesday, August 29 @ 6 p.m.

Special Council Meeting

Town Hall

1st Public Hearing on the tax rate FY2018

Tuesday, September 5 @ 6 p.m.

Special Council Meeting

Town Hall

2nd Public Hearing on the tax rate FY2018 and Public Hearing on the Budget

Wednesday, September 6 @ 6:30 p.m.

Community Meeting with Addison PD

Addison TreeHouse

Discussion of crime and crime trends in the community

Wednesday, September 6 Coffee with the Mayor has been moved to Wednesday, September 13

Dunn Brother’s Coffee

10 a.m.