New PA police chief must make a difference

August 19, 2018

Tim Duriso can’t eliminate crime in Port Arthur, but as the incoming police chief he can do a lot to drive it down, to make people feel safe in their homes and businesses. When he takes over on Sept. 3, he should be open to any idea — new, old or unconventional — that could make a real impact on lawlessness and change the lives of lawbreakers.

He appears to have the background for the job, and the City Council should be commended for hiring him. But two years ago, another promising professional was tapped for this job, and it didn’t work out. Last May, former chief Patrick Melvin was asked to leave, in part after receiving a no-confidence vote from the Port Arthur Police Association.

Duriso doesn’t want that to happen to him in two years — or ever. He’s a former member of the department and currently an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s office in Beaumont. At 56, he should have the experience in law enforcement to know the difference between what works and what doesn’t — and making sure that the effective tools are used. As chief, he will set the tone for his department, and it should be one that promotes ethics and professionalism in every way. If the department doesn’t meet those basic responsibilities, it can’t be effective.

That’s important, because Port Arthur has a real problem with crime, like any city, and a perception that parts of the city are simply unsafe. So much of crime these days is tried to illegal drugs — selling to users and fights between dealers. Duriso’s background with the DEA can help him tackle that part of his portfolio, and he should make it a priority. When young people get mixed up with drugs, they often go down a path that causes immense problems for them and their city. It’s much more productive to prevent kids from making that mistake instead of trying to fix them once they have.

A good police force must have the trust of the people they are trying to protect. People who view cops as adversaries will be less likely to report crime or provide tips. If those barriers exist in the Port Arthur Police Department, Duriso must eliminate them. In turn, cops must be out in the community as much as possible, not just on regular patrol but also in informal ways, letting taxpayers know they are on their side.

The City Council must give Duriso the resources he needs to fight crime more effectively — but also hold him accountable for results without meddling. Residents want a safer city, not promises or slogans.

It can be done. This task is not hopeless. Other cities with high crime rates have seen major turnarounds. Tim Duriso will have a big impact on whether Port Arthur is the next.

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