SAPD to centralize property crimes unit, amid criticism from detectives

SAN ANTONIO – Citing the need to be more proactive about how it investigates property crimes, the San Antonio Police Department this summer will centralize that unit and rebrand it as the Property Crimes Task Force, KSAT Investigates has learned.

Fifty-four detectives and six sergeants will be moved from the department’s six substations to SAPD’s Academic Court facility, possibly as soon as next month, SAPD Assistant Chief Karen Falks confirmed.

Property crimes detectives who spoke with KSAT in recent weeks have criticized the overhaul, raising concerns that Academic Court lacks the room to house another large unit and that victims will now have to travel long distances to sign affidavits or to retrieve recovered property.

“They all have vehicles now, and if they don’t, they steal them and they’re traveling throughout the city. And so we have many of these perpetrators committing crimes on South, on North, on East,” said Falks.

She said communication between detectives will improve as the department moves to an “intelligence-driven, offender-focused” approach to addressing property crimes.

“We realized that we weren’t being efficient and effective right now. What we’re doing today is we’re sitting back, waiting for those crimes to happen. They’re getting reported to us, then we go out and investigate. The plan now is to be in front of it, before it occurs,” said Falks.

Asked about detectives’ specific complaints, Falks said city facility maintenance employees will knock down walls if additional room at Academic Court is needed and that some detectives from the rebranded unit will be tasked with meeting victims out in the community.

San Antonio Police Department Assistant Chief Karen Falks. (KSAT)

“We will have a few detectives that are dedicated to moving about the city to get things signed or if we need to deliver property back to somebody, they won’t necessarily always come to Academic Court. We understand that that’s a drive for some folks and it may be inconvenient, but we’re going to make things as convenient and as efficient for the community as we possibly can,” said Falks.

She pointed out that SAPD’s robbery unit went through a similar centralization in 2009, which led to the clearance rate in robbery cases going up and the number of robberies throughout the city going down.

The Property Crimes Task Force will also move under the department’s Criminal Investigations Division. Detectives assigned to property crimes currently fall under the agency’s patrol section, Falks said.

Currently, all detectives work 7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. but, going forward will be divided into two shifts, a day shift and a night shift, to cover 20 hours in a day, Falks confirmed.

As part of the new task force, 23 detectives will work on Saturdays and 25 will work on Sundays, compared to just nine who are currently on the weekend shift.

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