Neighorhood protection may move out of HPD

HOUSTON Houston Mayor Annise Parker has her sights set on the police department's neighborhood protection division. While she isn't ready to go into detail about what her plans are, one thing is clear: she no longer wants it to be part of the Houston Police Department.

From weeded lots and illegal dumping to derelict properties and dangerous buildings, these neighborhood nuisances are handled by Neighborhood Protection.

"I don't believe that the marriage between the neighborhood protection division and the police department has been a happy one," Parker said.

On Monday, Parker said she intends to give neighborhood protection its own identity, meaning it would no longer be part of the Houston Police Department. The Houston police officers handling code enforcement violations would no longer be permanently assigned there. They would, instead, be moved elsewhere.

Earlier this year, an independent review of neighborhood protection found "lack of clearly defined set of priorities."

"This is not about saving money. It's not about reducing overtime for the police department. It is about making sure the civilian side of the neighborhood protection division is unleashed to be doing what it should be doing out in the neighborhoods," Parker said.

The announcement comes on the heels of the mayor's decision to move the Office of Inspector General out of HPD, the new policy requiring police officers to show up in traffic court at the start of a trial to save on overtime and Friday's layoffs in the city's Housing and Community Development Department.

"I don't think there is a lot of wiggle room. That's why efficiency is probably what is gonna get us through this -- making sure we do more with less," Houston City Controller Ronald Green said.

Green says tough economic times have forced the city to tighten its belt. While Houston is faring better than most, he and Parker agree that more changes are not out of the question.

Mayor Parker says the move will help free up three officers working in neighborhood protection to do other tasks. She also said she's committed to pumping more resources into neighborhood protection and bringing it up to full staff on the civilian side.

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