Stagnant crime rate, but growing population contributes to jail crowding

Officials at the Hays County jail are making room to house more arrestees. The growing county population is increasing the number of people contributing to the area’s crime rate.

Hays County commissioners recently voted to send prisoners to open space in Caldwell County as a temporary fix since the jail is reaching capacity. Hays County is one of the fastest growing counties in Texas, so commissioners are expecting to house more people in the jail for years to come.

According to Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell, even with additions to the facility, the jail could still be at capacity as those arrestees sent to other counties are returned.

“We’re adding onto the jail to provide more space, but when those at Caldwell return, the jail will likely be at capacity and require an expansion,” Shell said. “But the added-on parts will be easier after construction, because we’re designing the jail that way.”

Shell said the Hays County Sheriff’s Office is trying other solutions as well including cite-and-release for less serious infractions. The county is also expecting two new courts, a district court and a county court, that were officially approved to begin operation Oct. 1. When those courts are fully-staffed and judges are appointed, those waiting in the jails will be process faster.

“We can’t process everyone quickly though,” Shell said. “A lot of them are waiting on a decision for serious crimes with high bonds set.”

Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said his department sends more people to the jail population as the population of Buda increases.

“When the population is growing you can expect more people contributing to the crime rate, although the actual percentage of crimes stays the same,” Kidd said. “We’ve made more arrests this year than in previous years, but that’s to be expected.”

Buda contributed 82 arrests to the jail in 2012, but that number increased to 297 in 2017. Kidd said mosts arrests in Buda deal with theft and fraud.

In Kyle, police arrest most people for drug and alcohol related offenses, and assault. Kyle police arrested 2,618 adults in 2017 and 1,493 to date this year.

“Unfortunately, when you see the population increase, some of those people are going to contribute to the crime rate,” said Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett. “It’s to be expected, but it means we’re arresting more people and having to keep them in the jail also.”

To accommodate the jail population growth, county commissioners have been planning to increase the size of the Hays County Jail. According to Shell, the county is prepared to keep up with the number of retainees as more people move into the county. Shell said residents will see faster process times in courts when the new district and county courts are running.

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