Suicide and Crime Victims Support Groups

This month, in cooperation with Georgetown Police Department Victim Services, The Christi Center, a non-profit grief support center, will be starting a meeting for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In January, The Christi Center began offering a Georgetown support group for those who have lost a loved one to crime. Both of these groups meet from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month.

The next Crime Victim’s group and first Loss to Suicide group will be April 21 in the Georgetown Community Resource Center at 805 W. University Avenue in Georgetown. If you plan to attend, please call The Christi Center at (512) 467-2600 for a brief intake conversation prior to your first meeting. Or if you need more information, contact the Georgetown Police Department Victim Services at (512) 930-2595 and ask for Anthony Rector.

The Christi Center is a non-profit grief support center providing support services to Central Texans for over 28 years. The Christi Center’s mission is to provide hope after the death of a loved one by providing support networks, community education and therapeutic activities that are free, peer-based, and ongoing.

“Pets Are Worth Saving” Stickers Alert First Responders

PAWS logo less white space If your house was on fire and you weren’t there, would firefighters know about your dogs or cats in order to try to rescue them?

Or if you had a medical emergency and weren’t able to communicate, would EMS know to look for any pets to make sure someone takes care of them while you’re at the hospital?

Georgetown Police and Georgetown Animal Services recently introduced a new program called “Please PAWS: Pets Are Worth Saving,” designed to make sure your pets are rescued if there is an emergency. A sticker with a red stop sign and the “Please PAWS” symbol on it in a front window alerts emergency officials that you have a pet in your home.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one out of four people in the United States own at least one dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that police and other first responders encounter an animal on one out of every three calls, whether stray animals or owned pets.

“We had a situation a while back where a woman was transported to a local hospital and admitted,” says Capt. Evelyn McLean with the Georgetown Police Department. “We were unaware that the woman had two dogs crated in her garage until a neighbor called a couple of days later saying she could hear the dogs. If she had a PAWS sticker displayed, we may have located the dogs the night she was transported and we could have made arrangements with Animal Services to care for the dogs.”

The stickers also can serve to alert police officers responding to a residence so that they know of any animals they may encounter if they enter the home. Awareness of animals can lower the risk of bad outcomes from an animal that might be threatened by a stranger entering the home.

The “Please PAWS: Pets Are Worth Saving” stickers are an effort initiated by Capt. McLean and Animal Control Officer Kelly Thyssen. “We believe that a first responder’s heightened awareness of pets, especially canines, in a home will hopefully decrease negative and potentially dangerous encounters,” says Thyssen.

The Please PAWS stickers are available for no charge at the Georgetown Public Safety Operation and Training Center, the Georgetown Animal Shelter, and directly from animal control officers in the field.

The City of Georgetown Police Department is located at Public Safety Operations and Training Center at 3500 DB Wood Road, which is next to Fire Station 5.  Contact the department at (512) 930-3510 or by email at pd@georgetown.org.

The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter is located at 110 W.L. Walden Drive near the McMaster Athletic Fields. Contact the shelter at (512) 930-3592 or by email at animalsvc@georgetown.org. The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter website is pets.georgetown.org.

Citizen Police Academy Spring Session

PSOTC entry and flags webThe Citizen Police Academy is a 12-week course to educate citizens about all aspects of the Georgetown Police Department. The spring 2016 academy is instructed by police officers, fire department personnel, and officers of the district and county court system. The deadline to apply is March 10.

Session topics include the history of policing, laws and code of criminal procedure, criminal and accident investigations, lethal and less-lethal weapons, crime scene investigations, officer safety, the court system, fire department response, and other community support services.

Classes are held on Thursdays from March 24 through June 9. Sessions are 6 to 8 p.m. in the training room at the Public Safety Operations and Training Center at 3500 DB Wood Road, which is next to Fire Station 5.

There is no charge to attend the academy, but seating is limited and applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications are available at the Georgetown Police Department reception desk or online at pd.georgetown.org/programs-services. Completed applications should be returned to the Georgetown Police Department as soon as possible to ensure acceptance into the class.

A background check will be conducted on all applicants. No one under the age of 18 is eligible to apply. Persons with a prior felony conviction will not be accepted.  All applicants will be notified of acceptance. For additional information or questions, please call (512) 930-2747 or (512) 930-2588.

Weapons Use Rules in City and ETJ

Given the changes in open carry of handguns that went into effect in Texas this month, the Georgetown Police Department would like to offer a reminder about other rules regarding the use weapons.

With a few exceptions, it is unlawful for a person to discharge any firearm, air-powered weapon, archery device, or other weapon for any reason, including, but not limited to, hunting, sporting, target practice, or competition, within the city limits or within the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, which extends up to 3.5 miles beyond city limits.

Prohibitions on the use of weapons are common in many cities. It may be less well known that the prohibition also applies to areas within Georgetown’s ETJ.

There are a few exceptions to the prohibition. Exceptions include a weapon discharged in a shooting gallery or gunsmith establishment, a discharge that occurs with a permit issued by the City of Georgetown, or a discharge that is allowed by state law or United States law.

In addition to these exceptions, there are also two more exceptions that are unique to larger tracts of land in the ETJ or within the city, if the land was annexed after September 1, 1981.

The first exception states that a shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, BB gun, or bow and arrow may be discharged on a tract of land of 10 acres or more, and more than 150 feet from a residence or occupied building located on another property.

The second exception states that a center-fire or rim-fire rifle or pistol of any caliber may be discharged on a tract of land 50 acres or more and more than 300 feet from a residence or occupied building located on another property. In both cases, the projectiles must be discharged in a manner not reasonably expected to cause the projectile to cross the boundary of the tract.

To see a map of the Georgetown city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction area, go to files.georgetown.org/city-limits-etj.

Handguns and Open Carry at City Facilities

New Texas laws regarding the licensing of handguns take effect on January 1, 2016. Known as open carry, the new laws effectively eliminate a distinction between concealed carry and open carry. A license is still required for a handgun owner who wishes to carry the weapon in public.

A licensed handgun owner will have permission to carry openly or in a concealed manner. Those carrying a handgun in an open manner must have the weapon in shoulder or belt holster.

Under the new laws, the City cannot prohibit someone from carrying a handgun in a concealed or open manner in most City facilities or property. Places where licensed carry is allowed, as long as the handgun is concealed or holstered, includes most public areas such as:

  • Public lobbies such those at the Georgetown Municipal Complex, City Hall, Animal Shelter, Public Safety Operations and Training Center, or Georgetown Municipal Airport Terminal
  • Public facilities such as the Public Library, Recreation Center, Community Center, or Tennis Center
  • Public parks such as San Gabriel Park, or the hike and bike trail

Open carry of a handgun is not permitted in the following places, except by a licensed peace officer. A sign about the prohibition will be placed at these meeting locations. Concealed carry is permitted and was previously permitted.

  • City Council meetings at the City Council Chamber at 101 E. Seventh Street
  • Boards and commission meetings and other open meetings subject to the Open Meetings Act at various locations

Open or concealed carry of a handgun is not permitted in the following places, except by a licensed peace officer. Open or concealed carry was previously not permitted.

  • Courtroom for Municipal Court at 101 E. Seventh Street
  • Polling places for City elections at various locations

Private businesses or places of worship or other private property may prohibit the open carry of handguns if required signs are posted in English and Spanish, oral notice is given, or a card with the prohibition is presented. Details on the wording of signs specified in the Texas Penal Code 30.07 are available on the Texas Department of Public Safety website at www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/legal/newlegislation.htm.

Open or concealed carry of a handgun is still not permitted at a public or private school or on school grounds or in a school transportation vehicle, except by a licensed peace officer.

An unlicensed handgun is permitted in a vehicle or watercraft, as long as it is not in plain view. A licensed handgun is permitted in a vehicle or watercraft, as long as it is not in plain view or if it is holstered.

Laws regarding the lawful carry of long guns, such as rifles, remain unchanged.

Residents with questions about the new laws regarding the licensing of handguns and open carry can find further information on the Texas Department of Public Safety website at www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/legal/newlegislation.htm, or contact the Georgetown Police Department non-emergency number at (512) 930-3510.

Teen Court Wins Spotlight Award

The Georgetown Teen Court was again the winner of the Spotlight Award for 2015 from the Teen Court Association of Texas. The award is given to one court in the state that has shown the most progress, innovation and achievement. This is the third time in seven years for the Georgetown Teen Court to win the award.

Teen Court members were honored with a proclamation by Mayor Dale Ross at the City Council meeting on December 8.

teen court 12-8-15 bweb

Pictured in the photo (left to right) are Tyler Tidwell, Sydney May, Timberly Abell, Brittany Maldonado, Lissy Martinez, Peyton Williams, Ricardo Romero (Georgetown High School coordinator), Judge Randy Stump, Tina Heine (Teen Court coordinator), Keely Martinez, Ben Brody, Bethany Wilson, Kathryne Thomas, Mac Sommerville, and Philip Lloyd.

Not photographed were Sara Farr, Kristina Neitsch, Ethan Skipper, Ashley Wollaston, Caroline Jones, Asa Lange, Hunter Lanning, Jackie Madden, Caitlin McLean, and Bailiff Fred Pitcher.

Blue Santa Collecting Toys for Kids

Blue Santa’s elves are busy in their workshop getting ready for the annual campaign to provide toys to children in need in Georgetown. Each year Blue Santa, a program of the Georgetown Police Department, provides toys to more than 1,500 children in Georgetown. And each year Blue Santa needs your help.

Blue Santa is collecting toys at the Christmas Stroll Parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 5. New, unwrapped toys will be collected by Blue Santa Elves along the parade route.

New, unwrapped toys also may be dropped off in donation barrels in businesses and offices in Georgetown. For a list of donation sites, go to BlueSanta.Georgetown.org.

Monetary donations to purchase toys also are accepted. Checks to “CPAAA Blue Santa” should be sent to the Georgetown Police Department, c/o CPAAA Programs, 3500 DB Wood Road, Georgetown, TX, 78628. Donate $15 or more to Georgetown Blue Santa and you’ll receive a collectible Blue Santa Elf lapel pin.

December 1 is the application deadline for assistance from Blue Santa. Applications are available at The Caring Place at 2000 Railroad Street and the Georgetown Police Department at the Public Safety Operations and Training Center at 3500 DB Wood Road.  Children who qualify for Blue Santa are age 18 or younger, live in Georgetown city limits, and qualify for free or reduced lunch program at school or meet federal poverty guidelines.

For information about donation events and barrel locations, go to BlueSanta.Georgetown.org.

Burglaries from Vehicles—Where and Why

The holiday shopping season is beginning, and that means extra precautions for gift items left in vehicles in shopping mall parking lots. Unfortunately, each holiday season, thieves steal items out of vehicles at the mall. For that reason, the holidays are an especially important time to get in the habit of locking your car doors and putting items in the trunk.

car on Austin 2bWhile that is sound advice, the Georgetown Police Department has some surprising data on where burglaries from vehicles are occurring and why. Most incidents are not happening at shopping malls and at businesses in Georgetown.

In the first nine months of 2015, two thirds of the burglaries from vehicles in Georgetown happened when the vehicle was parked at a house or apartment. Only 24 percent of the incidents happened at a mall or other commercial location.

Given that most burglaries from vehicles are happening when the car is parked at someone’s residence, how are they occurring?

For the 92 residential burglaries of vehicles that happened in January through October of this year, 74 percent were from an unlocked vehicle. Overall, 63 percent of the burglaries from vehicles in 2015 were from unlocked vehicles.

The surprising fact that emerges is that many people don’t lock their vehicles while at home. However, this is where thieves are most likely to steal items from cars.

Lt. Jim Seals says that officers and volunteers have contacted many businesses in the city to make them aware of the vehicle burglary trends. “We’ve contacted every bank in town and also have talked to the hotels and most of the restaurants,” says Seals.

Two years ago the Police Department started an intensified effort to reduce burglaries from vehicles. There were 332 incidents in 2013 and only 134 in 2014. In 2015 there were 57 burglaries of vehicles from January through June. However, in the month of September there were 34 incidents, which is the highest monthly total since July 2013.

Lt. Seals says, “We’ve reached out to businesses in Georgetown to make them aware of the issue. Hotels, restaurants, and apartment complexes close to I-35 seem to be a target for thieves since there is an easy escape route. Now we need to get the word to residents.”

Locking your car door when you’re at the mall, at a business, and also at home is the key to reducing this crime, says Lt. Seals.

“It takes less than 60 seconds for a thief to enter your vehicle and be gone with anything you leave—your wallet, credit cards, computer, cell phone, garage door opener or anything of value,” says Ray Dorton, a volunteer with Citizens on Patrol. “Should you leave your garage door opener in the vehicle the criminal can take it and come back later, break into your home thus allowing yourself to become a victim for a second time.”

The simple habit of locking your car door, no matter where you are, can greatly reduce the chances that you’ll be the next victim.

Formula 1 Driver Tries Police Driving Course

Millions of fans across the world will be watching the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race at the Circuit of the Americas course in Austin this weekend. Driver Valtteri Bottas, a Finnish 26-year old on the Williams Martini Racing team, is currently fifth in the Formula 1 standings.

Bottas and City group webBefore the big race day on Sunday, Bottas came to Georgetown where he tested his skills on a driving track for training police officers.

Bottas was invited to Georgetown several weeks ago by Karen Gilbert, a volunteer at the Georgetown Police Department and a huge fan of Formula 1. Gilbert contacted Bottas through a fan website and was surprised when he agreed to come.

“I invited him to come and play cop for a day,” says Gilbert, who mentioned the tactical training building and the driving track at the Public Safety Operations and Training Center.

Bottas arrived in Georgetown Tuesday morning where he was greeted by police officers and City officials. Then Sgt. Wyatt Raley put Bottas through his paces in training exercises at the tactical building.

Bottas and car front 1 webBottas also tested his skills driving a police patrol vehicle on the driving track. After a test run with Officer Casey Horsley, Bottas drove the course with sharp turns and obstacles and set a new course record of 1 minute and 36 seconds.

A crew with Off the Grid, an NBCSN TV show about Formula 1, filmed Bottas’ visit to Georgetown and his run on the driving track. The segment will be part of an Off the Grid show about the Austin Formula 1 race that will air on NBCSN on November 11.

Captain Evelyn McLean with the Police Department said one of the goals in inviting Valtteri Bottas to meet with officers at the facility was to give him a picture of what it’s like to be a police officer. Bottas told McLean that spending the day with police officers gave him a new perspective on the job they do. “Like driving in a Formula 1 race, we have to make decisions in a split second and make those decisions accurately,” says McLean.

Bottas and officers on track webBottas is back in Austin and preparing for the practice sessions at Circuit of the Americas on Friday and a qualifying session on Saturday.

When Bottas races at 2 p.m. on Sunday, he is likely to have some new fans in blue from Georgetown cheering him on.

(Photos by Amanda Chron, Georgetown Police Department)

Police Explorer Post Recognized

The Georgetown Police Explorer Post 152 was recognized at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. Exploring is a leadership and skill development program that introduces high school aged students to the field of law enforcement. The Explorer Post 152 trains at weekly meetings and learns to work through various scenarios similar to those encountered by patrol officers. Explorers participate in competitions each year at the local, regional, and state level.

Explorer post members recognized at the meeting included (pictured left to right) Theodore Brown, Maj. Connor Alvarez, Lt. William Woodburn, Cody Johnson, Angela Cabazos, and Christian Franzel. Georgetown police officers who work with the post and were recognized included Officer Trey Walters, Sgt. Erik Grasse, and Officer Sarah Turowski.

Explorer post 1-web

Maj. Connor Alvarez with the Explorer post told the City Council and audience that, “We just went to a Harris County competition, and every scenario that we competed in, we placed in. So we represented Georgetown very well. I love Explorers. It has changed my life in many ways. It’s shown me new insight to the career of law enforcement. It’s helped me develop as a leader and as a citizen.”