Already in 2021, there have been 44 homicides, five of which included teenagers, and 116 non-fatal shootings in the city. Police report they are seeing the same crime pattern as the last quarter of 2020.
"You cannot blame everything on the pandemic, and in Houston, we have a situation that we need to address in our city," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
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Several factors were brought up during a news briefing that the mayor and Houston police Chief Art Acevedo attended Monday. Because of the pandemic, the court system is holding very few jury trials, which has created a major backlog. More than 36,000 cases are on hold.
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"The backlog is enormous," District Attorney Kim Ogg told ABC13 Investigates in December. "It's frustrating for victims. It's dangerous for our community."
SEE ALSO: Victims wait as courts face unprecedented COVID-19 delays
The issue of bond reform was discussed. It is being felt by law enforcement across Harris County.
On Monday, Memorial Villages police arrested a teen for stealing a car and crashing it. Chief Ray Schulz said the teen was already wearing an ankle monitor and was out on bond for prior charges. He was taken into custody again.
"It continues to be very frustrating because we are arresting the same people over and over again," Schulz said.
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Mayor Turner said the city is in an "all hands on deck" situation.
In an effort to combat the crime, Acevedo said they are putting more officers on the street. He said their administrative officers, with the exception of detectives, will be in uniform on patrol. He estimates that will add 300 shifts per week.
He said officers are being redirected to hot spots in the city where the crime is happening.
Twenty property crime detectives are being moved to the homicide division, according to Acevedo. Property crimes are down 15% year-to-date and homicides are up. He said the shift will better use resources.
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For the first time since the pandemic began, police will be able to arrest people on misdemeanor charges.
Over the weekend, Acevedo said Houston police arrested 15 people, cited 100, and impounded cars all involved in street takeovers.
"You enforce those misdemeanor violations, especially when you're in hot spot areas, you end up uncovering fruits of more violent crime and a more serious crime, and so those folks are the ones that need to worry," Acevedo said.
Currently, the jail is at 96% capacity. Acevedo said people booked on misdemeanor charges will likely be released fairly quickly on personal recognizance bonds but being able to arrest them allows officers to further investigate crime in the community.
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