A jewelry store heist committed in broad daylight two weeks ago in Dripping Springs has left some residents wondering if the town is ready to establish its own police force.
However, due to the cost of such an endeavor, city officials are instead contemplating hiring additional Hays County Sheriff’s Office deputies to police the town.
But for Dripping Springs resident Danny Hendricks, growth has turned Dripping Springs into something “larger than I ever thought or hoped it would.”
“All the old timers here would love to have seen it stay the way it was, but it hasn’t. It has grown and will continue to grow,” Hendricks said. “With that growth comes crime (including robbery, assault, rape, drugs, and yes even murder) and with crime comes the need for authoritative figures.”
Currently, Dripping Springs is covered by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, which is still searching for the suspects involved in the robbery.
Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell said the city works closely with Hays County sheriffs for law enforcement. He said the city receives weekly reports from the HCSO, which helps officials monitor crime. As the city doesn’t have its own police force at this time, it must rely on the HCSO for the reports.
Roughly 3,000 people currently live within Dripping Springs’ city limits. Roughly 30,000 people live in neighborhoods sitting outside the city limits, or the extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Comparatively, Wimberley is roughly the same size as Dripping Springs and also does not have its own police department.
“Examining the need for additional law enforcement is something that remains on our radar,” Purcell said. “We are most appreciative of the deputies who serve our community.”
Dennis Gutierrez, public information officer with the HCSO, said Dripping Springs hasn’t had an aggravated robbery such as the jewelry heist “in a very long time.”
“I would say that crime is just keeping up with the population increase,” Gutierrez said.
The idea of adding more law enforcement in Dripping Springs has, however, been a topic of discussion among city leaders and staff since last year. According to the city’s comprehensive plan, city leaders are hoping to work with Hays County to fund additional sheriff’s deputies for the city by early next year. Officials are also looking to hire a full-time city marshal by 2020.
The city estimates the additional staff could cost $75,000 to $125,000 annually.
If the city does decide to help pay for extra deputies, the Dripping Springs Comprehensive Plan says it will benefit from the law enforcement presence without having the full cost and liability of its own police force.
But are Dripping Springs residents ready or wanting of a police force?
That’s the question posed by the News-Dispatch via a social media blast to Dripping Springs residents on a popular social media forum.
For the most part, however, most seemed to believe that the town was still too small to establish and pay for its own police station.
“The cost and logistics of managing a police force of a couple of officers is hardly worth the tax burden to the people that actually live and pay city taxes,” said Miles Frost, resident of Dripping Springs.
Frost added many comments clamoring for a police presence in town was a “knee-jerk reaction” to the recent robbery.
“These robbers were not worried about getting caught; we have a very low crime rate in Dripping Springs and Hays County Sheriffs are doing a fantastic job,” Frost said.