New approach to fighting crime

October 3, 2011 3:50:43 PM PDT
Business and property owners are taking a stand against crime in their neighborhood. They're pooling resources to do something about what they call nuisance businesses, fronts for illegal gambling and prostitution.

They want to see those businesses gone from areas like Brays Oak, Sharpstown and Spring Branch. The nuisance issues associated with these types of businesses are not new. The approach in how the community is dealing with them is.

Property manager Juana Madrid said, "I remember Sharpstown used to be a great beautiful place."

Madrid is on a quest to clean up it up by going after one illegal business at a time.

She said, "If there's criminal activity, we need to do something to eliminate it."

A new public safety initiative aimed at reducing the number of illegal businesses that attract crime could help her achieve that goal. The greater Sharpstown district, along with Brays Oaks and Spring Branch have split the cost for a county attorney who deals solely in prosecuting nuisance cases, whether it's cracking down on illegal gaming rooms or nightclubs, motels and spas serving as fronts for prostitution.

David Hawes with the Brays Oaks Management District explained, "Look, we're not out here to put people out of business. We want to get them to the table and let's get compliance. Many times property owners don't even know that their tenants are causing problems in the community."

And it's unique in that a county attorney will now be enforcing city ordinances.

"It's a new way of finding resources to do something that's of critical importance to quality of life," said Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.

Violent crime overall in the greater Sharpstown area is up eight percent through July of this year. Non-violent crime is up by four percent. Whether it's effective in reducing those numbers remains to be seen but Juana Madrid has high hopes.

"You have to do something," she said. "You have to get involved on the solution."


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