Houston Gets Tough on Crime: Murder Rate Down to Lowest Figure in 3 Years

As it relates to the homicide rate across the United States, the city of Houston had maintained a bleak reputation of being near the top of the list, year after year.  That appears to be changing.

As we start the 2018 calendar year, the City of Houston has a lot to be optimistic about as it relates to dealing with the homicide rates in the city. Mayor Sylvester Turner took to Twitter to thank Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, his command staff and every police officer for helping reduce the murder rate for 2017 to its lowest figure in 3 years according to HPD’s preliminary estimates – 269, which is down a total of 33 murders from the previous year.

“Despite being significantly understaffed, Houston police officers perform over and above,” Turner recently stated on Twitter.

Turner went on to say via Twitter:

“@HoustonTX ended 2017 at a 3-year-low 269 murders, down 33 from 2016. (It was 701 in 1981!) Every life is precious; let’s make 2018 even safer! Thanks to the public and @houstonpolice.”

While crime and homicides continue to be an issue, this serves as some extremely encouraging news for the city, especially considering that going into the 2016 calendar year, Houston was projected to be one of three cities driving an increase in the nation’s overall murder rate, according to the Brennan Center for Justice: Crime in 2016 Report.

As a matter of fact, according to calculations based on figures provided by the Houston Police Department going into the year 2016, Houston was also projected to log 323 murders in 2016. In June 2016, the local murder rate was running five percent ahead of 2015.  By September 2016, there had been another increase, and it looked as if Houston would end the 2016 calendar year with 10 percent more murders than it had the year before.  However, that was not the case.

Because of a dedicated focus, the City of Houston saw a significantly lower number than the projected figures, and at the beginning of 2017, Turner held a press conference highlighting the fact that the City of Houston had started to see a positive trend, in that the city had reduced its murder rate by one person from 2015 to 2016.  At the end of 2016, Houston had only logged 302 murders, which was just under the 303 murders recorded in 2015, but far lower than what had been predicted for Houston based on trends recorded earlier in 2016.

Going further, Chief Acevedo credited the decrease to his department having a dedicated focus on aggravated assault, criminals with a history of violence and domestic violence cases.

According to Turner, the reason for this positive trend was that the city of Houston responded with an aggressive plan that involved an extra $2 million for overtime, the deployment of 175 officers from desk jobs to beat patrols, more park rangers and a new patrol division dedicated to the Central Business District. The increased focus on the problem included strategy sessions with HPD’s command staff and weekly updates to the mayor.  Local hip hop artists, ministers, Houston Texans players and other community leaders also stepped up to help lower the temperature in Houston neighborhoods where tensions were running high.  City Council members dedicated portions of their district budgets toward police overtime and the City’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones provided additional funding for public safety needs.

“There is a still a lot of work to do on decreasing all violent crimes, but getting a handle on murders is a good start,” said Turner. “I commend the officers, commanders and support staff at HPD for this effort and hope we can work to maintain our goal of keeping our growing city as safe as we can. It is always hard to determine the specific reasons murders and other crimes increase. Some say it is something we really have no control over.  That may be true, but there are early indications the overtime and increased focus have helped, and for that, I am pleased.”

It appears having a consistent joint philosophy and approach from Turner and Acevedo, has helped contribute to the decrease, but as Houston has seen in the past, things could change in a heartbeat. Of course, Turner and Acevedo are hoping that is not the case, which is why they plan to continue their commitment to addressing the issue of crime in the city of Houston, with hopes that the murder rate continues to plummet and that there is far less crimes reported as a whole throughout the 2018 calendar year and beyond.