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Conversations with the Chief: Waco police leader breaks down community policing efforts

Waco police chief
Posted at 6:52 AM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 07:52:30-04

WACO, Texas — With violent crime on the rise, Waco police are turning to new methods of policing.

Since becoming police chief, one of Sheryl Victorian's priorities has been "relational policing", bridging the gap between police and the neighborhoods they serve.

"One of my priorities when I came here was to increase the number of positive interactions that we have with our community, to help change the perception of policing," Victorian told 25 News on Wednesday.

She said she wants Waco police to be described by three words: transparent, respectful and engaging.

In the department's new violent crime strategic plan, she outlines community events and programs for assisting at-risk youth.

Since she took office as police chief, the department has hosted a back-to-school event, "trunk-or-treat" event, and most recently, a community opportunity event to provide youth with resources for success.

"Whatever it is that we need to do to show our kids that we support them and increase that positive engagement that they may not see all the time," she said.

Criminal justice experts say the philosophy of community policing began in the 1990s and has become more popularized in recent years as departments try to improve their public perceptions.

"The idea is that if people have faith in the police, that they're gonna be more likely to report crime, that they're gonna be more likely to participate in policing," said W. Carsten Andresen, associate professor at St. Edward's University. He said while the definition of "community policing" can vary, it can be effective if implemented well.

G.W. Cox, a retired police chief and faculty member of Sam Houston State University, said in his experience, more community engagement typically leads to lower crime rates.

"When you lose that sense of community, people will do really weird things," Cox said. "Where you see citizens and communities support police, you see a lot less violent crime."

Victorian explained that these proactive approaches may not show results in the short-term.

"Has it reduced crime yet? I can't tell you that it has," she explained. "But I'm very optimistic that our engagement and our encouragement and our support of our kids and getting involved in their lives early will have an impact on our future."

25 News will have more from its discussion with Victorian, including internal struggles with recruiting new officers, tomorrow. To see the first part of our conversation with the chief, surrounding the city's in violent crime, click here.