UTSA criminology professors helping SAPD to reduce violent crime citywide

A similar partnership in Dallas helped reduce crime significantly in targeted areas.

San Antonio police are getting creative when it comes to fighting crime. They're working with criminology experts who gather data in the classroom to take to the streets. While the program is in the beginning stages, researchers say their efforts are paying off in other places.

SAN ANTONIO – Nationwide violent crimes are on the rise, including here in San Antonio.

As of April 15th, homicides were up 50 to 42, according to San Antonio Police Department.

The red and blue lights, crime scene tape, and gunshots are becoming all too familiar in the city of San Antonio.

“Every time we hear gunshots going off, and you don’t know if those are going to be flying anywhere and hitting somebody,” Nieves Alvarado, who lives on the Southwest side, said.

“We don’t even come outside. I like to be inside before it gets dark,” Jaque, who lives on the Northwest side, said.

It’s a problem UTSA criminology professor Michael Smith wants to fix.

“There’s not a thing in that plan that we don’t have evidence for in the literature based on good evaluation science that we know works,” Smith said. He is a professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice.

Smith and his partner Rob Tillyer are working with SAPD.

They are looking at what crimes are being reported, when and where they are happening, and what can be done to stop them from happening again. It’s something they’re already doing with the Dallas Police Department.

“In a very short period of time, we’re trying to reallocate those resources or recommended DPD because they ultimately do it right where they should be sending folks every about every three months,” Tillyer, a professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice, said.

Dallas PD launched its evidence-based crime plan last May. Since then, violent street crime has dropped more than 50% in their targeted areas. 

“We’re constantly looking at numbers, looking at looking at data with them, strategizing new ideas, ways to tweak, tweak the baseline strategy to make it even better,” Smith said.

The success in Dallas boiled down to strategy, not just placing more officers on the street but placing them strategically.

Tillyer and Smith say they are still gathering data here in San Antonio. They hope to replicate Dallas and curb the trend they’re seeing in their home city.

“Certain pride in helping, you know, the sort of what happens on the ground in your city that you live in and people you care about, know, you know, your community, right?” Tillyer said.

This research is still in its early stages, and the UTSA professors don’t want to speculate on a completion date at this point.

In order to complete this research, Tillyer and Smith have a contract with the city of San Antonio. It’s the same way their partnership started with DPD, but eventually, the city of Dallas received a federal grant to continue on.

“We hope in San Antonio that if we that we can do the same thing, that we can help the city leverage what we hope to be some initial success and and go after some, some either grant dollars from the federal government or from want from a foundation or the philanthropic foundations that support this kind of work,” Smith said.


About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.