HOUSTON - The Texas Medical Center has recently decided to cut part of its security force.
The Texas Medical Center is one of the premier spots in the world for people seeking treatment for everything from gunshot wounds to health care. It has more than 92,000 employees and an average of 7 million patient visits a year.
On July 15, Harris County Precinct 1 deputy constables will no longer be paid to patrol the 1,300-acre campus that makes us the Texas Medical Center.
Officials with the Texas Medical Center said low crime in the area and cost savings led to the decision.
Many said security if not the best place to cut costs.
"Safety is more important than anything," said Darrick Collins, who visited one of the facilities.
For more than three years, the Texas Medical Center has paid to have off-duty Harris County Precinct 1 deputy constables patrol the campus. The deputies have responded to everything from fender-benders to car break-ins.
Working in a health care environment can be delicate work.
"You're dealing with people that are coming to see someone, many times in an emergency situation," Harris County Precinct 1 Chief Deputy J.C. Mosier said. "They're emotionally distressed."
Local 2 Investigates obtained a copy of a letter stating the Texas Medical Center is canceling the contract that pays for off-duty deputies to patrol the area. Texas Medical Center officials said the plan is to replace the 35 deputies who were spread over 24-hour shifts with eight unarmed private security officers. Texas Medical Center officials said this will cut costs by about $300,000 to $400,000.
Mosier said he understands the cut as the nature of off-duty jobs, but said uniformed officers working security helps cut down on the stress of on-duty police officers patrolling other parts of town.
"We do all the things that an officer who is on duty does and actually keeps the on-duty officer from having to do it," Mosier said.
That includes making arrests, collecting evidence and investigating crimes.
Texas Medical Center officials said they have already had meetings with the Houston Police Department to make sure it is aware deputy constables will stop patrolling the area next month. Texas Medical Center officials said individual facilities still have security officers and, in some cases, their own police force to keep watch over those areas.
Even though deputy constables will stop patrolling the Texas Medical Center campus, off-duty officers will still be used as security at Garage 1 on Fannin.
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