Homicide rate in Houston is up, despite a program designed to drive down crime

Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Is a multimillion-dollar crime prevention program actually working?
Homicides rates are increasing in Houston despite the multimillion-dollar crime prevention program, One Safe Houston, that launched in February.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The number of homicides in Houston is rising, despite launching a new, highly publicized crime crackdown.

Mayor Sylvester Turner made a national appearance on Good Morning America, touting 'One Safe Houston,' a $53 million program to help combat crime in the city, first announced in February.

"It's part of supporting our police department, adding 125 police officers more a day, through our overtime program," Turner said on GMA. "So it's adding more police, providing more technology, dealing with crises prevention, intervention, and diversion."

While the mayor spoke proudly of the program, the homicide rate continues to rise compared to 2021, with more people losing their lives to gun violence.

According to Houston police, there have been 279 homicides in Houston in 2022. This time in 2021, there were 267 homicides. In 2020, that number was 205.

ABC13's Brooke Taylor asked HPD Chief Troy Finner what he needs to see in order to confidently say the program is working.

"When those numbers are going down and one thing we don't talk about, and it's hard to measure, how do our citizens feel?" Finner previously told ABC13. "Those individuals living in the neighborhoods, I want to get out and do some surveys."

Turner called the program a success, but some people living, in what the city considers crime hotspots, said they aren't seeing much of a difference.

Ilean Cooper, who has lived in Sunnyside for more than 60 years and knows her neighborhood better than most, said she has never seen crime as bad as now.

"It's getting worse," Cooper said. "It never has been like this."

While homicides are up, other violent crimes like assault, rape, and robbery are down compared to 2021, according to data from the Houston Police Department.

As part of One Safe Houston, $1 million was allocated toward a gun buyback program. Turner called the program a success after collecting more than 800 guns.

"If we took one gun off the street that could have been used in seriously injuring or killing someone, then the program was worth it," Turner said on Good Morning America.

Douglas Griffith, the president of the Houston Police Union, believes it is a waste of money and could be better spent at a time when the police force is running at its thinnest level in years.

"Our biggest problem now is recruiting and trying to get guys to come here and be policemen," Griffith said. "Our starting salary as a police officer is $42,000 for your first year so we could use that money for hiring bonuses. Whatever we have to do. That's the only way to stop crime."

Long-time residents like Cooper can only hope that one day the city will head down the right path. For now, she'll just have to wait and see.

"There's just so much crime going on all around, not just right in this community, all over here," Cooper said.

For updates on this story, follow Brooke Taylor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.