ATASCOCITA, TX --Residents in the Atascocita area are dealing with a spike in crime, which they attribute to a spike in the number of people moving to the area. Now one group is pushing a plan to get more officers on the streets. But this plan will come at an added cost to businesses in the area. A community meeting will be held on the issue tonight. It's estimated that priority calls for the area have increased 37 percent in the past four years. Despite that, the number of officers has stood stead for about 16. Just six months after moving to Atascocita, Emily Miller can already see the need for more officers. "Just with all the building, there's a lot of open houses, people up and down the street that you don't always necessarily know who they are," she said. But finding a way to afford that protection is cause for debate. "I think it's time that they contribute," said Ernest Bezdek with Atasca Woods HOA. Taxpayers already pay the Harris County Sheriff's Office to provide security in the area. However, individual subdivisions also have supplemented that with private contracts with the Harris County Pct. 4 Constable's Office. The challenge is that over the year, the area has seen a population explosion. "In some areas, it's probably doubled since 2005, and other areas, it's probably almost quadrupled," Harris County Pct. 4 Assistant Chief Woody Mitchell said. It's that reason some residents are pushing for MUD districts to take over security contracts. As it is now, homeowners associations front the entire bill for the additional officers. If MUD takes over, commercial and business properties would be taxed, too. "It comprises a lot of the calls," Bezdek said. "Walmart has frequent calls, where the officers have to leave our contract and go to Walmart, Target." But some small businesses complain they're already facing challenges with high rents and a tough economy. They're worried an additional tax would simply be too much. "To add more burden to the businesses, it's terrible," said Jeannette Botello with Chefs 2B. Supporters of the plan are trying to get 24 officers for this area. There are other options on the table. HOAs could raise their fees and there could also be a special security district, but that would require special legislation. You can read more on this story in The Atascocita Observer, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.
September 23, 2010 4:09:05 PM PDT
By Gene Apodaca