Mayor Sylvester Turner announces $44M 'One Safe Houston' crime reduction initiative

Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Mayor Turner announces $44M 'One Safe Houston' crime initiative
WATCH PRESS CONFERENCE: Mayor Turner announces 'One Safe Houston' crime reduction initiative

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston and Harris County leaders are sharing their plans to address the sharp rise in crime.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner announced the $44 million "One Safe Houston" crime reduction initiative.

The research-based initiative focuses on four key areas:

  • Violence reduction and crime prevention
  • Crisis intervention, response and recovery
  • Key community partnerships
  • Youth outreach opportunities

According to Finner, HPD made 20,000 felony arrests in the past three years.

Despite violent crime being down in 2021, the city has already reported 40 homicides in 2022.

"We're not here today to point fingers. We're here to talk facts," Finner said. "We're getting busy in this city."

Turner said as part of the initiative, the city will add an additional 125 overtime HPD officers per day across Houston.

The officers will be deployed in areas where/when the most violent crime is happening, according to data. The increase in HPD officers will cost $5.7 million, Turner said.

Additionally, the city is working to bring new officers into the department. Turner said a new class will graduate in March.

To assist HPD, the city is also investing $1.9 million to increase the number of park rangers by 15. The park rangers will work as partners with local law enforcement to keep Houston's parks safe.

"There is no question. There are too many guns on the street," Turner said.

Turner said the city is investing $1 million in a robust gun buy-back program to remove illegal and unwanted firearms from Houston's streets. The program will work to target Houston's most violent neighborhoods.

Additionally, the city is working to address nightclubs and convenience stores where crime has proven to be a growing problem.

As an example, Turner said the city recently filed a lawsuit to shutdown the MVP Food Store on Lockwood, which Turner said is a hotspot for criminal activity, including rampant drug dealing, assaults and shootings.

"The city will continue to use every remaining tool to reign in crime with its limited resources," Turner said.

Turner said a huge issue with Houston's crime rates is tied to Harris County's court backlog.

He said there are currently more than 100,000 cases on backlog, which is more than any other city in Texas, and likely more than any in the country.

"If the backlog remains this high, we will always be running, fighting, against the grain," Turner said. "It will not work. The backlog must be addressed."

To help aid the courts, the city is giving $1.5 million in additional funding to the Houston Forensic Science Center to provide timely evidence for cases still tied up in the courts.

"Ultimately what is needed is more courts, more judges, more staffing," Turner said.

Turner said he has instructed the city legal department to draft an ordinance that will require bail bond companies to charge a premium that is equal to at least 10% of the bail bond set by the court.

He is calling upon the Harris County Bail Bond Board to require the same standard. But until they do so, the city will go forward with the ordinance.

The city will invest $2.5 million to the implementation to the Cure Violence Program, which trains and deploys outreach workers and violence interrupters to mitigate conflict on the streets.

"The community has a role to play, police can't do it alone," Turner said.

The initiative also includes $1 million in funding to help increase the number of participants in the city's program to provide housing, jobs, rehabilitation and more to formerly incarcerated individuals.

The city is hoping to increase participation in the program from 500 members to 750.

Turner said a major contributor to the city's rise in crime comes from a rise in domestic violence cases.

To combat this, the city is allocating $3 million to provide more services for survivors and prevention efforts to combat domestic violence. This includes sheltering, forensic medical exams, outreach efforts and more.

"This is a public health crisis," Turner said. "No one can escape accountability and no one can wait on someone else to solve the problem. Everyone has a role to play."

County leaders are targeting massive abandoned buildings, saying those can be incubators of crime. In fact, one of those buildings was demolished. Here's the plan.

In a different press conference Wednesday morning, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was joined by Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to unveil the details of their $50 million "Clean Street, Safe Neighborhoods" program. Commissioner's Court approved funding last October for the initiative, which targets blighted buildings, dark streets and other abandoned structures considered incubators of crime and gun violence.

Specifically, Hidalgo brought up an area in north Harris County where violent and deadly crimes occurred within a half-mile area around 900 Cypress Station Drive.

In Oct. 2021, 13 Investigates analyzed more than 210,000 incidents reported to the Harris County Sheriff's Office since 2019 found the Cypress Station area has the most crime in the county. That didn't include crimes reported to the Houston Police Department, which 13 Investigates analyzed the previous year, or other law enforcement agencies that serve the county.

Part of the unveiling included the demolition of an eight-story apartment building that has been abandoned since Aug. 2020. The county said the structure has been used by drug dealers to hide weapons and narcotics.

13 Investigates report: How residents in this north Harris County neighborhood became numb to crime

Overnight, there were three different shootings in just two hours, and one person was killed.

The first shooting occurred at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday on Harwin and Fondren, where a man was shot in the neck. It's believed that shooting started as an argument. One person was hospitalized, and the suspect is on the run.

Minutes later, at 11:30 p.m., police say someone was robbed and shot in front of an apartment complex at Lansdale and W. Sam Houston Parkway. The wounded person was taken to the hospital in serious condition, and that suspect also got away.

Then at 1 a.m. in east Houston, the body of a woman who had been shot in the chest was found on Nimitz and Evanston. Authorities are investigating her death.

ABC13 has also learned the number of weapons on our area streets is high.

RELATED: Standoff injuring 3 HPD officers draws attention to 'ghost guns'

Since 2019, the overall number of guns the Houston Forensic Science Center received from HPD is on the rise. On average, firearm technicians are handling about 500 weapons a month. The highest count was 683 last March.

Last week after three Houston police officers were shot, Turner said that plans would be revealed on what leaders plan to do to curb crime. He'll be joined by HPD Chief Troy Finner to discuss that.

Overnight alone there were three shootings, one of them deadly. So what are local leaders going to do to curb the violence?