HPD chief 'laser-focused' on department reforms and bringing down violent crime

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The city's new police chief, Troy Finner, has only been in his new job for a month and he's already speaking about reforms to the department.

Addressing the city council and the public on Thursday, he said HPD's use of data to focus on resources is key to the department's future and will help them increase patrols in certain areas.

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"When you look at our staffing, if we're not using that data to focus in on the hotspots, we lose the battle," Finner said.

He talked about the need to have what he calls a "laser focus" on violent crime and drugs. He mentioned taking a deeper dive into Houston's convenience stores where he said drug deals happen often.

"Regular drug houses, and what we used to refer to as 'crack homes,' we're going to come after them as well with proactive undercover work and also increased patrols," Finner said.

But those increased patrols can backfire in communities if they're not done right. That's the concern for residents in areas like the north side.

"What was happening was the police tailing people in the neighborhood and trying to find a reason to pull us over and give us a ticket. It happened to me. It happened to a lot of people," said Dr. Christel Bastida, who lives on Houston's north side.

She said that problem spiked in response to the Josue Flores murder in the neighborhood back in 2016.

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She said the problem trailed off since, but it highlights the need for community policing rather than over-policing specific neighborhoods.

"We need to know [police] are there for the community when needed, but not profiting off the area, saying, 'OK, now we're going to write all these tickets,'" Bastida said.

Finner also spoke about the importance of building relationships. He said the department's focus will be on violent offenders and gang members while protecting everyone else. He and Mayor Sylvester Turner will unveil more, specific reforms next week.

"We have to make sure we're doing everything we can do to build that trust," Finner said.

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