The good news? Houston’s overall crime rate is down 6%, and nonviolent crime is down 9%.
The bad news? The violent crime rate is up by 6%, bolstered by a surge in rapes and assaults. Even worse, the first two months of 2020 showed a whopping 18% crime increase over the same period last year, all according to the Houston Chronicle.
So reportedly, while the city’s law enforcers are working overtime — literally — to try to keep residents and visitors safe from violent predators, officials are also seeking help in the form of technology -- about $8.5 million worth. This is coupled with the estimated $1.5 million in overtime the strapped Houston Police Department, the chief of which says is 600 officers shy of where it needs to be. The department just announced its needs at a kickoff event for its annual “March on Crime” February 27.
Among the technology improvements that Mayor Sylvester Turner said are needed “right now,” per the Chronicle, are surveillance cameras for homeowners and ShotSpotter, a system that uses optical and acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire. The city wants to use that detective system in a five-mile area of South Houston.
Police Chief Art Acevedo told the paper his department will be concentrating on dismantling gangs and combatting violent crimes such as aggravated assaults, aggravated robbery, rapes, and murders.
While the costs are coming all at once — the overtime has already begun — the expenditures are critical to keeping Houston safe and vibrant, the officials said, and the city is seeking help from the private sector as well as the public.
“The economic vibrancy of a city starts with a safe city,” Acevedo told the Chronicle. “There’s a lot of people and companies in the city that can write a check, and it’s an accounting error to their bottom line. And so, if you want to give a gift to the people of Houston, that will be here and paying dividends long after you’re gone, write that check.”