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Irving Named 5th Safest Big City In America

IRVING (CBS 11 NEWS) - The fifth largest city in our area is also the fifth safest big city in America, according to the publication Business Insider.  The rankings are based on the publication's analysis of 2012 FBI crime statistics of cities with a population of more than 200,000.   Plano is also on the list as number three, and Garland as number 13.    Irving's outgoing city manager says better coordination among enforcement departments is one key; but so is focusing on each neighborhood's core issues.

"I feel very safe here," says Pete Miller, who is President of the Nichols Park Neighborhood Association in Central Irving. He says the key to feeling secure here is neighborhood involvement.   "I know everybody on this street, and some of them have keys to my house. So we know each other and we know each other well, and that's an amenity you really can't buy."

The association represents about 650 homes.  It gets some money from the city to produce a newsletter, but most communication is by cellphone...with neighbors like Tina Marquez, who believes safety is paramount.

"Very. Super-duper important," she told CBS 11 News.  "We have six kids. I think there's nothing more (important) than safety."  Marquez and Miller agree that neighbors cover each other by reporting suspicious activity.

City manager Tommy Gonzalez says a focus on long-term strategic planning set the stage for positive change the past 5-7 years. One such change: providing more eyes and ears for police by merging the duties---including communications and initial inspections---with those from other departments.

"There was a need for better coordination with other departments so we put code and police together...Animal Services," he said.  The upshot was less duplication of effort and more direct enforcement. Especially with apartments.

Irving has torn down scores of troublesome apartments, many with absentee landlords. The city defined structures on a scale of one-to-four; one being brand new and needing no attention; two needing some attention, three being apartments in decline, and four being dilapidated and unsalvageable.

"We used to have 100 in that category (#4). We have zero today. So that really says a lot about focusing on where your problem is and really addressing it."  He says there have been no apartment demolitions in the past 18-months as a result.

"You have success stories like Tudor Lane," Gonzalez continued, "where we reduced the crime rate there in that neighborhood by over 70% and we tore down 26 facilities there where we had rampant drugs, prostitution, and burglaries that were occurring.  So really by addressing the cord needs of each neighborhood has gotten us to this point."

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