Fighting Crime in Sharpstown with Private Patrols

Fighting Crime in Sharpstown with Private Patrols
S.E.A.L. Captain Viktor Sarabian and his K-9 Vera. Image Credit: Sharpstown Civic Association

The burglars found a putty knife in Charmaine LeBlanc’s garage and used that to dig a hole in the wall next to the kitchen door. Then they reached in, unlocked the door, and took her purse off the table. But they didn’t steal her car. They just charged $500 on her credit cards at the local Circle K and Walgreens.

That was about eleven years ago, when Sharpstown paid County Constables to provide neighborhood security. But constables were seldom seen because the Sharpstown Civic Association (SCA) was 90 days in arrears with its payments. Someone wasn’t keeping the books well.

“Who’s in charge here?!” LeBlanc asked. Then, instead of complaining, she decided to help. She sent out dozens of Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) and got eight replies, including from the County Constables. They were charging ~$40 per hour, and S.E.A.L. (Strategic Executive And Logistical Security Solutions) charged ~$24 (at least, that's what LeBlanc estimates now).

The SCA board decided to try S.E.A.L.

When S.E.A.L. security teams—comprised of an officer and his dog—began patrolling the neighborhoods, they immediately made a big difference, said LeBlanc. “They showed up and the burglaries went down to nothing. The crime stats dropped dramatically.”

LeBlanc isn’t referring to the crime stats for the whole Super Neighborhood of Sharpstown. Instead, she’s referring to the membership area of the SCA—the single-family residential neighborhoods in Sharpstown (which include some duplexes).

Apartments and commercial properties have a higher crime rate, but the SCA doesn’t tally those in the monthly and yearly crime totals they gather from HPD via LexisNexis. The SCA focuses on reducing crime in their membership area of approximately 7,000 homes, where they pay S.E.A.L. to patrol.

This year, from January to July, the SCA’s crime stats record 24 burglaries, 0 murders, and 152 crimes total. That’s far lower than ten years ago, LeBlanc said.

The City of Houston did not begin using LexisNexis's Community Crime Map till 2015, so the map does not include data for ten years ago. But the map appears to confirm the SCA’s numbers for January to July 2023. For the most part, Sharpstown’s single-family residential neighborhoods stand out like islands, relatively bare of crime compared to the apartments and businesses around them.

It’s not perfect. Lately there has been an increase in car break-ins by what LeBlanc calls “night ninjas”—people walking the streets in the middle of the night, checking car doors. “You’ve got to lock your cars, people, and don’t leave a gym bag in there. They don’t know if you’ve got bars of gold in there or just gym clothes.”

But house burglary stats have remained low, and the SCA credits S.E.A.L.

S.E.A.L. officers will detain suspects, but they won’t arrest them. If an arrest is necessary, they will call their contacts at the Houston Police Department. “S.E.A.L. is there for visibility,” said SCA Operations Manager Scott Gilbert. “They also provide better response times, and they are very effective.”

The experience with S.E.A.L. got LeBlanc fully involved in the SCA, where she now serves as president. “I realized, you know what, our homes are big investments, and we should do what we have to do to keep them safe,” she said. “Here I am, 10 years later. It’s fun seeing the results.”

The SCA plans to continue working with S.E.A.L. According to LeBlanc, when the last RFP’s were sent out in 2021, the constables were charging ~$68 per hour and S.E.A.L. was charging ~$34.

Where does the funding come from? On average, 20% of households contribute to the SCA, which historically uses about 30-40% percent of its budget for S.E.A.L. Residents who contribute also get a S.E.A.L. sign for their yard.

“And their Belgian Malinois are so beautiful,” LeBlanc added. “But you have to speak Belgian or German to communicate with them.” S.E.A.L. officers don’t actually speak fluent Belgian or German, but their dogs learn commands in those languages. That’s because the S.E.A.L. officers don’t want any locals distracting their partners.

You can reach S.E.A.L.'s 24-hour dispatch center at 713-338-2266.

Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that S.E.A.L. officers' dogs are Belgian Malamutes. There appears to be no such thing as a Belgian Malamute (but Alaskan Malamutes exist).

Update: The story has been edited to reflect that prices and years were estimated by LeBlanc, and that the SCA board chose to hire S.E.A.L.


Matt Connally is a freelance writer who grew up in Houston. He’s happily married, and has two sons, a dog, and a cat.

Tyess Korsmo, the Sharpener's editor-in-chief, moved to Sharpstown in 2019 to earn his Master of Liberal Arts at HCU, where he now teaches English and history. He also teaches English in a maximum-security prison.