HPD staffing reaches three-year high

June 20, 2008 4:26:52 PM PDT
The Houston police force just got bigger with the graduation of new cadets this week. In fact, the department crossed the 5,000 mark for the first time in three years. So do more officers translate into safer streets?

HPD, like so many law enforcement agencies, is having to compete with the military to find qualified police applicants. Slowly, though, the numbers are starting to improve. It's accomplished the 5,000 officer milestone in the quest to increase staffing. And one neighborhood is already seeing the difference those numbers can make.

A family on their porch on De Soto street; it would seem like a small thing, but it's a sign of how much people believe their neighborhood has changed, even this year.

"We wouldn't go out in the daytime," said Acres Homes resident Ruby Ireland. "Not without a man with us."

Women's bodies were being dumped in Acres Homes, including one last summer. But then the Houston Police Department targeted the area. Patrols increased. The fear that paralyzed families started to decrease.

It's progress for a neighborhood and for the Huston Police Department. Thursday night, 63 cadets graduated from the Houston Police Academy. As of today, HPD has 5,044 officers. Seven more academy classes are scheduled over the next year.

Recruits are offered a $12,000 signing incentive. That said, it will still take 6,400 officers before HPD reaches the national police staffing average.

Still, the staffing today is an improvement over the recent past. And new hires are hitting the ground running.

"I'm replacing them in patrol while we're able to focus their efforts in hot spots throughout the city and they've been very effective. As a matter of fact, theyr'e getting close to making 3,000 felony arrests since November," said HPD Chief Harold Hurtt.

It's a start and it will take time and money to complete. But more police in more neighborhoods has plenty of strong neighborhood advocates.

"Tell them to go head on and do it because these citizens need it, especially these old people," said Ireland.

The next academy class is scheduled for August with 41 cadets.

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