Store manager sees change in Midtown from increased HPD presence: 'Everything's going good nowadays'

Mycah Hatfield Image
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Midtown sees improvements after HPD vows stepped-up patrols
Frustrated weeks ago, Midtown business owners are applauding Houston police after the chief vowed to improve patrols in one of the city's crime hotbeds.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The manager of a convenience store in Midtown said he has noticed a significant difference in crime in the area since police increased their presence at the beginning of the month.

HPD Chief Troy Finner met with Sami Fardeen, the manager of the store situated at the corner of Fannin and Gray, the morning after a deadly shooting inside the store.

RELATED: Gunman shoots into Midtown convenience store, killing 1 and grazing another, police say

One man was killed, and another was injured on the afternoon of July 31, after a fight broke out inside the store. That was the second shooting in a week on the property.

During their meeting, Finner vowed to reduce crime in the Midtown area around the convenience store by increasing officer presence. He and his team also provided feedback for Fardeen regarding changes he could make inside the store to assist in the effort, including moving gaming machines and keeping his parking lot clean.

"He said, 'You help me, and I will help you,' and he did," Fardeen said almost a month after his meeting with the chief.

Since then, he has noticed Houston police officers circle his parking lot almost every 15 minutes.

The frequent visits and cooperation with HPD led Fardeen to get rid of the private security he said he had been paying thousands of dollars for.

"No more crime. No more dope dealers. No more guns," Fardeen said. "Everything is going good nowadays, because chief (Finner) promised me, and now he did that."

RELATED: 'That's ended': HPD vows to reduce crime in Midtown following 2 shootings at gas station in a week

He said while he believes they have regained control of the store, it will take time to get business back to where it was prior to the increase in crime nearby.

In July and August combined, HPD said officers made 50 felony and 80 misdemeanor arrests in the immediate area of the store. Commander Caroleta Johnson, who presides over HPD's South Central Division, said they ranged from drug offenses to parole violations and open warrants.

"Not only do we use on-duty units on every single shift, mornings, evenings, and nights, but we also have units on overtime, and sometimes we get help from people that work in other parts of the city to provide presence around here as well," Johnson said.

When asked where the people who were living and loitering in the area are now that it has been cleaned up, Finner said hopefully in permanent or temporary housing, although he said displaced people often move to other locations in the city.

"We've got to be looking areas that are popping up of the same activity and bring the same services there," Finner said. "It's fluid. It is, and that's the challenge."

He said over the last month, he has emphasized to his team that the efforts in Midtown have to be sustained.

In order to sustain it, Johnson, whose division covers the area, said they have to ensure that units are being assigned during each shift to monitor the block where the convenience store is and surrounding areas.

She also said the Midtown Management District and District D, run by Councilwoman Carolyn Evans Shabazz, provided funding for additional officers.

HPD has also included wraparound services in its plan to provide resources for those in the area who need them.

"Our homeless outreach teams, all our other service providers, we brought them into the area as well," Finner explained. "That's the success story. Not just the police."

SEARCH Homeless Services have provided housing to 112 people in the Midtown area year-to-date, according to HPD.

Joel Lowry was one of several volunteers from 7More set up outside the Greyhound Bus Station Tuesday. Lowry said they are there five days a week as a first point of contact for the 15 to 20 men and women fresh out of prison who arrive by bus to Houston daily.

The urban street ministry provides assistance, including food, water, clothes, and assistance getting to a final destination.

"A lot of these guys have been on drugs, or they have struggled with something with an addiction," Lowry said. "It's so prevalent down here. It's almost a hand-grab away. We are here to be that barrier, be that wall between successful reintegration."

Lowry said they have noticed a growing need among people on the street and an aggression from the homeless fueled by the heat this summer that they have not seen in years.

"I think that's because there hasn't been a very strong police presence, but ever since the police has gotten involved, it's been absolutely incredible seeing the police here making a change," Lowry said.

The area where Lowry sets up and Fardeen works is in the midst of a transition period.

Across from Fardeen's store is the Greyhound Bus Station. Southwest of the convenience store is an empty building. Both the empty building and bus station occupy a full city block. They were both listed for sale in the last year and remain on the market.

There is an empty lot northwest of Fardeen's convenience store where a McDonald's was torn down earlier this year.

"Any time there is an enhanced quality of life, businesses are going to come," Finner said. "We want safety, but we also want a revenue base in our city."

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