Expert weighs in on reasons behind increase in homicides in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- So far in 2021, there have been 346 homicides in Houston. That is a 28% increase over this time last year and a 74% increase from the same time in 2019.

"What we're trying to figure out now is why. Why is this happening? And that seems to be the million-dollar question," said Elizabeth Gilmore, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Houston-Downtown.

Gilmore says COVID-related stresses are likely part of the problem, but not the single factor to blame.

SEE ALSO: Houston sees 30% increase in homicides compared to this time in 2020

"It's all those factors potentially financial strain and mental health and COVID-related factors such as those. Could there be some policing concerns? Potentially. We're certainly not immune to that in Houston. It can be a variety of things, right?" said Gilmore.

She explains in this situation, there is no quick fix.

"I do think we're in that dynamic where there's so many things going on right now, and so, trying to piece it apart is very, very difficult. But something does need to be done to address it. But no singular agency or entity or legislative bill can be responsible for a transformative fix," said Gilmore.

Houston City Councilmember Mike Knox agrees with the idea that the safety of our city does not stand solely on the shoulders of the police department.

"The fact of the matter is the justice system is not all policing. It's the court system, it's the DA's office. It's the community at large working together with law enforcement to control crime," explained Knox.

Gilmore explains this increase in violent crime in our city is concerning, however, it is important to put the numbers into context.

"When we look at our crime rates, our homicide rates for example in the 1990s, even now with these much higher rates, we are still a lot less likely to be a victim of a homicide now in 2021, than we were in the early 1990s," said Gilmore.

Overall, Gilmore believes the leaders of our city are aware and working to find solutions.

"People in the community should know that everyone that I have spoken to, whether it be police agencies, district attorney's office, legislators, everyone knows that this is going on. This is not something that I think our city is turning a blind eye to," explained Gilmore.
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