Capehart Housing Security

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
As of Feb. 6, all three Sheppard family housing areas have been "privatized." As a result, GMH Military Housing is now responsible for management and maintenance of our base housing and has already begun to renovate and/or build new housing units to bring all of our Sheppard homes up to the Department of Defense standard.

Part of GMH's management responsibility is to provide garbage/trash/recyclable pickup, water/sewer service and even street repair for each housing area. Since Capehart Housing is located off-base, GMH must also provide police and fire services for this neighborhood.

You may have seen a recent story in the Times Record News indicating that GMH is now paying the City of Wichita Falls $610,000 annually to provide these services. For Capehart residents, that means that the City of Wichita Falls is now responsible for police and fire response to your neighborhood.

Wherry and Bunker Hill will continue to be serviced by our on-base Air Force resources.

As a result of this change, when you dial "911" in Capehart, Wichita Falls police/fire/paramedics will respond. Included in this package is "Enhanced 911" service which automatically passes address and location information to emergency services personnel without the caller saying a word.

Although the City of Wichita Falls now has responsibility for responding to calls from Capehart, for the time being I have directed that our Sheppard security forces also respond to the scene in a supporting role. We will continue operating in this fashion until we and the City of Wichita Falls are confident that the transition is complete and operations are running smoothly. Tentatively that date is set for March 9.

As another part of this transition, effective March 9, I have decided to eliminate the permanent posting of a security forces guard at the Capehart gate. Access to the John Tower Elementary pedestrian gate on the northwest side of the housing area will still be restricted; however, we will establish a less manpower intensive method of securing this school gate.

Eliminating the gate guard was a difficult decision for me to make, since we all enjoy the feeling of security and safety that comes from having an armed guard at the entrance of our housing area. I, along with the rest of the base leadership, live in Capehart, and we certainly like having the gate guard out there and wish we could keep this in place!

Originally we had hoped to keep this gate guard even after GMH assumed responsibility; however, it is now clear to me that this is not the best course of action.

Here's why:

· We don't have adequate security forces manpower to cover Capehart and provide security for the rest of our base. Due to the heavy GWOT deployments of our security forces squadron, we typically guard Capehart not with security forces troops, but with "augmentees" pulled from their normal jobs as academic instructors, medics, and other base support personnel. With the PBD 720 cuts across the installation, I can no longer afford to provide this service "out-of-hide." We need to get most of these augmentees back to their primary jobs.

· Since the government is now paying GMH (with your BAH dollars) to provide emergency services for Capehart, it would be inappropriate for the Air Force to provide a redundant service and essentially "double-charge" the taxpayer for Capehart security.

· Recent guidance from Headquarters Air Force has given us tremendous latitude to make changes to our security processes to improve efficiencies and maintain overall installation security.

· Most government off-base housing areas around the world are not guarded. For example, today in the United Kingdom, all off-base Air Force housing areas have open gates.

· The crime rate in the civilian neighborhoods around Capehart is very low.

Despite this change, understand that the security of Capehart housing will remain a primary concern for me and GMH management. We are discussing with GMH measures they may put in place, including the installation of an automated gate at the entrance to Capehart, much like what you typically see at "gated community."

You will also continue to see routine Air Force security forces, along with Wichita Falls PD, mobile patrols in the neighborhood. I have also directed our security forces squadron to initiate a Neighborhood Watch program in Capehart to enhance the level of security.

Finally, we will closely track crime statistics in Capehart to assess whether there is any appreciable difference between it and the other two housing areas. If we see any indication of crime rates increasing in Capehart, we will work with GMH, the City of Wichita Falls and our own security forces to put measures in place to reverse this trend immediately.

In the end, I am convinced that all of these changes will work together to provide higher-quality housing for our families, an acceptable overall level of security for our entire installation and a reduced manpower burden for thinly-stretched units across the base. I appreciate your support.

If you have any specific questions, please direct them to Walter Buster, 82nd Civil Engineer Squadron, 676-1354.