WACO, TEXAS — It's safe to admit that when you see a police car in the rear view mirror you let off the gas while passing cars in East Waco.
Detective Eric Hawkins has spent three decades in law enforcement and most of that with the Waco Police Department.
"I grew up in the good ole' East Waco Neighborhoods," said Det. Hawkins.
We were invited to join him for a day of his police work. You might think it was a day of pulling people over, foot chases, and drug busts. While that still takes place, Det. Hawkins is focused on preventing that from happening.
Hawkins knows many people in East Waco and they know him. Up and down the streets he speaks with residents, children, and business owners.
"But it's important that citizens of the city understand that it's hard to resolve crime, it's hard to get these knuckleheads off the streets," said Hawkins.
Trust in the police is not a new issue but was brought into focus in 2020 and 2021 after the death of George Floyd.
In November of 2020 Pew Research did a study that showed most Americans had some trust in police, and 26 percent said they have a great deal of confidence.
Young adults struggle with trusting law enforcement more than middle-aged and older adults.
Republican leaders have a great deal of confidence in the police, and that compares with only 13 percent of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic party.
Pew Research looked at ways people may have been discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity across different realms of life.
When asked if they had been unfairly stopped by the police, almost half of Black adults said that this had happened to them, including about two-thirds of Black men.
By comparison, 19 percent of Hispanic adults and only 9 percent of white adults said that this has happened to them.
Violent crime is up in the U.S. and here in Central Texas. Hawkins said he wants to show the neighborhood he grew up in that good officers are out there.
"It has its highs and it has its lows, right now we are in a spike," said Hawkins.
The CDC says that the firearm homicide rate grew 35 percent from 2019 to 2020 and the number of firearm-related murders among children and young adults are increasing as well.
Hawkins says that violent crime might seem high but it's around one percent. He admits that there is a youth problem when it comes to gun violence, which is why he would like to stop a crime before it happens.
"If you had a problem with somebody, there was not all this 'Pick up a gun," Hawkins said to a business owner.
He believes with youth centers closed due to COVID plus the loss of places for children to gather like swimming pools has hurt the community.
"We were proud of our neighborhoods, we were proud of the things that we had," said Hawkins.
The detective's viewpoint is that generations lost that sense of pride in their neighborhood but see positive changes.
Reportedly, 44 percent of Black Americans said that they or someone in their home lost jobs or wages because of the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from a high of 14.7 percent in April 2020 to 8.4 percent in August 2020. However, in May 2020, the Black unemployment rate reached a high of 16.6 percent, and as of August 2020, it was still at 13.2 percent.
Life has not always been fair to those in East Waco. Years of racism and aging infrastructure. But, construction is underway on Elm street, and replacing old lighting helps the community feel good about where they live.
Hawkins finds it important to get out of his patrol car and talk with the community.
"I'm able to show the people of my community now, that you can trust the police."