Since the beginning of the pandemic, crimes rates in Harris County have rapidly increased; with violent crime progressively getting worse. Statistics from Uniform Crime Reporting Program found that Houston had 24,062 violent crimes in 2018. Additionally, a more recent ABC 13 report discovered that as of November 2021, the city endured its 540th murder, a 21 percent increase from last year.
"All across America, violent crime has increased and Harris County is no exception," Judge Lina Hidalgo says during a press conference. "We have a pandemic and the economic impacts of the pandemic, and of course, continued gun violence, and that's taken a toll. A third of an increase in terms of homicides. Similarly, a 31 percent increase in aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. We need to do better than that."
Noting these disturbing figures, Hidalgo has a plan to fight crime in some of the county's most dangerous areas. Last Tuesday, Hidalgo announced a $2.6 million dollar crime-fighting initiative, that would essentially increase the police presence in some of the city's most crime-prone neighborhoods.
Proud to support another anti-crime initiative. Our new, $2.6M Precision Policing program will use analytics to concentrate police visibility in micro zones with high crime. @HCSOTexas will engage with the community in those areas to collect disparities data to ensure fairness.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) November 30, 2021
Dubbed the Precision Police Program, the plan will dispatch 96 deputies each day to seven identified "micro-zone" areas in Harris County. The program recognized Little York and Eldridge, Cypress Station, Park Row, Woodforest, U.S. 290, Aldine, Freeport, and Normandy as the Greater-Houston area locales that require more police visibility.
According to a statement from Hidalgo, the program has plans to "increase law enforcement budgets, gun violence interruption, reduce criminal court backlogs, fight crime by reducing blight and mental health holistic response teams."
To better support law enforcement, Hidalgo approved additional overtime and funding to help in solving cold cases and provide justice to victims and their families. Similarly, to aid in cleaning up the streets and improving public safety, the new initiative also includes a Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods program, that will address dilapidated buildings and vacant lots, as well as improve infrastructure with street lights and paving sidewalks. The Office of Judge Hidalgo notes that these environments "serve as incubators of crime and gun violence."
Much like many other cities and counties that are opting for sensitivity training, Hidalgo's plan also incorporates holistic responses to crimes related to health challenges and social delays such as mental illness and substance abuse. The new concept would designate $5 million to Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART); relieving law enforcement from responding to those types of issues and enlist trained mental and behavioral health responders.
The announcement of the new crime-fighting program comes as Judge Hidalgo filed for reelection last Wednesday. While she's proud of the work that has been done thus far, there's much more work to be done.
"That's the choice. To keep waking up every day and working to make this community better, and protecting the progress that we've made, or to go backward," Hidalgo said during a press conference.
For more information on Judge Hidalgo's latest initiative, visit her website.