Commissioners unanimously pass new 'Harris County Safe' crime reduction initiative

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Harris County Safe initiative promises to target crime hot spots
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As part of the initiative, Judge Hidalgo said law enforcement aims to add 96 officers per day to the county's top seven violent crime micro-zones.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- In a five to zero vote, Harris County commissioners unanimously approved a new program called "Harris County Safe," aimed at reducing crime in the most violence-prone areas of unincorporated Harris County.

The $2.6 million initiative for increased police patrols and other measures is what the county calls a "targeted, thoughtful" approach to reducing crime and getting repeat violent criminals off the streets.

"A third of an increase in terms of homicides. Similarly, a 31% increase in aggravated assault with a deadly weapon," Hidalgo said of the recent crime spike. "We need to do better than that, and that is why we're adding another tool in the fight against crime in our community."

She said the violent crime increases are generally concentrated to specific communities and are not county-wide.

"It's not necessarily all over the place, and that helps us tackle it," Hidalgo said.

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She described Harris County Safe as a precision-policing initiative that will target micro-zones with the highest incidents of violent crime and will work hand-in-hand with the community to make improvements.

"This is a problem that is challenging to very, very specific areas," County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said. "So with a very strategic, very surgical strike to those areas, with a combination of resources, approaches and strategies, I'm very, very confident that this will bear immense fruit, as our precious initiatives have already (bore) fruit."

He noted that this year, the sheriff's office has already taken more than 200 wanted violent offenders off the streets in Harris County.

Supported by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Hidalgo says the program also involves a "substantial community engagement component designed to inform, work with, and seek input from impacted communities."

The program has already used data mapping and analytics to identify seven micro-zones within the five policing districts of Harris County, Hidalgo said.

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The sheriff's department's goal is to increase officer visibility and street-level deterrence in those areas, with a proposed additional 96 officers per day in each micro-zone.

"By increasing policing in those areas, by working to take repeat, violent offenders off the streets in the targeted micro-zones, that we will be able to make a dent in our region's crime rate," Hidalgo said.

Additionally, the deputies aim to partner with the communities before, during and after the initiative, and to monitor for any disproportionate impacts.

"Too often in years past, we have brought down the thunder of God on communities, and then just left debris behind," Garcia said, emphasizing how this program features a holistic and supportive approach.

"We need to make sure that stakeholders realize that there is no silver bullet. We can't pretend like any one thing is the cause of the crime, or any one silver bullet is going to magically solve it," Hidalgo said. "What we're doing is looking at a slew of evidence-based initiatives; fighting blight, tackling the backlog, working on mental health, working on homelessness"

She said the program should be able to start in a few weeks.

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