Safety First: Frisco Named The Safest City in America

The U.S Census Bureau recently reported that Frisco is among the top 10 U.S. cities to have experienced the largest numeric population gains between 2020-2021, with an increase of nearly 8,000 people.

Meanwhile, Frisco landed in the top spot on another list earlier this year, which named it the nation’s safest city. The honor was bestowed by personal finance website SmartAsset, which conducted a study examining data from 200 of the country’s largest cities. (The complete report is available at smartasset.com/data-studies/safest-cities-in-america-2022.)

The website considered five metrics in determining which cities are the safest: the rates of violent and property crimes, drug-poisoning and vehicular death rates, as well as the percentage of the population that participates in excessive drinking. 
“Our findings show that Frisco consistently provides a safer environment compared to other big cities nationwide. This is good news for local residents and prospective families who are looking to lay down roots in the city,” Kara Gibson, spokesperson for SmartAsset, says. 
Frisco’s first-place finish was an improvement over last year, when it landed in second place. This year, that spot went to nearby McKinney. Plano landed in ninth place (down from No. 5 last year). 
It is possible that no one in Frisco was more pleased to learn the city had been deemed the safest in the U.S. than Frisco Police Chief David Shilson, who calls the designation “a huge honor.”
“It’s a big deal because people and businesses want to move to a place where they feel safe,” he explains. “Certainly, to be able to distinguish yourself as beyond just being a safe city, but being the safest city, that’s definitely a very important distinction that certainly will make our city very attractive to businesses and people wanting to move here.”
Prior to the SmartAssest study results being released in April, the chief said neither he nor the police department was aware that Frisco was in the running this year for the designation.
“There’s so many people who work at this department and they pour their heart into their work and they do it for the safety of our community and our residents and our visitors,” he says. “I was proud for the city and the community as well because all of the things that we do in partnership with our citizens and the programs and all of the joint efforts we have with them, that partnership paid off.”
That partnership is one of the things that sets Frisco apart from other North Texas cities when it comes to keeping residents and visitors safe, Shilson says. “We have a very problem solving-oriented community. We have very engaged citizens who want to be an active part in keeping Frisco a safe community.”
 When fully staffed, the Frisco Police Department has 238 sworn positions and 113 non-sworn positions including such support staffers as dispatchers, detention and Animal Services personnel, among others. The department also has a pair of canine officers.
The chief describes the department’s response time to calls for service as “excellent. … We have officers that are all over the city and they’re not very far away. They’re going to get there pretty quickly if somebody is calling for help.”  
Communication between the police department and Frisconians is key. “If we don’t know about concerns or … potential crimes that are happening, it’s hard for us to respond to those things. I think our residents are really good about letting us know — reporting things as they see it, working with us proactively.”
Case in point: Frisco Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy routinely fills up within days of applications being made available. Program participants meet weekly and learn about various aspects of policing such as making high-risk traffic stops, pursuit driving and processing crime scenes.
Community policing is at the heart of everything the department does. For example, it’s not uncommon for the officers who patrol Frisco to interact with attendees at birthday and block parties throughout the city as well as visit convenience stores and get to know the clerks there.

Case in point: Frisco Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy routinely fills up within days of applications being made available. Program participants meet weekly and learn about various aspects of policing such as making high-risk traffic stops, pursuit driving and processing crime scenes.
Community policing is at the heart of everything the department does. For example, it’s not uncommon for the officers who patrol Frisco to interact with attendees at birthday and block parties throughout the city as well as visit convenience stores and get to know the clerks there.
“That’s all part of the community policing mindset that we have and it’s so important that we do that because (officers) have to be approachable,” Shilson explains.
It is critical, he says, that the police department maintains “a posture that is proactive” and is able to identify “spikes in crimes” before they occur.
 A prime example of this is the department’s deployment team, which consists of three officer and a sergeant who act as “a proactive presence in our visitor and retail areas,” he explains, especially around Stonebriar Centre and The Star. “What they are there for is to basically look for things happening, look for things that look out of place and be a presence to deter crime from actually happening in those areas. We want to keep our visitors and people who might be here to shop or see an event safe.”
Shilson says the department has “gotten very good at managing and running events. … It is a challenge keeping up with all that because we have so many events in town at one time and that’s only going to pick up with the PGA moving here.”
The deployment team practices what Shilson calls “tourism-oriented policing. A big part of that is … also interacting with people. They’ll encounter people who are visiting the area and they’re not sure where they need to go or how to get somewhere. Our officers are out there giving them guidance, reminding them of the importance of locking up the car. It’s that kind of interaction that … keeps them approachable.”
Funding was approved last year to add a second deployment team to the department. “That will further expand our efforts to be proactive in our retail and visitor areas,” Shilson says. 
Marla Roe, executive director of Visit Frisco, says, “I think now more than ever, people are doing much more research in their travel decisions. … Safety is one of the key areas in their decisions on where to travel. Frisco is a destination where visitors of any kind can explore without having to worry about the safety of their family or those attending an event.  We are fortunate to have such exemplary first-responder services in Frisco that keeps not only our residents but our visitors safe.” 
Keeping up with Frisco’s explosive growth is challenging, Shilson says. “The dynamic that we have here in Frisco is not only do we have to be a police department that effectively polices the 215,000 people that live here, we have to be a police department that keeps our venues and events safe.”
The “great relationships” that Shilson says Frisco Police Department maintains with other City of Frisco departments and offices — including the Frisco Fire Department, engineering services, the City Manager’s office and the Frisco City Council, among others — has made all the difference in terms of keeping the city safe. 
“Our elected officials are ones who ultimately have to approve budgets and every year they make public safety a priority … More than half of our city’s operating budget is designated to public safety and that shows their commitment to it.”     
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.
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