Crime drops in town where most crimes seen last year

HOUSTON - For years now the Sharpstown area in southwest Houston has been known as a hot spot for crime. In fact, earlier this year Local 2 revealed that Sharpstown saw more crimes last year than any other neighborhood in town.

According to 2013 Houston Police Department statistics, Sharpstown had 502 burglaries, 256 robberies and 252 stolen cars.

"This has been a long-term effort," said Houston City Council member Mike Laster.  "We've had crime reduction efforts in Sharpstown for the last 20-plus years."

But the area's newest crime reduction effort seems to be paying off.

"Sharpstown, over the years, has had a reputation for crime and we just feel we've turned the corner on that," said Sharpstown Civic Association President Jim Bigham.

Bigham and his fellow SCA members hired a private security firm to patrol the 7,000-home subdivision within Sharpstown. And they used crime statistics analysis to dispatch those patrols at optimal times.

"When people are away from their homes during the work day is when they're most vulnerable for burglaries," Bigham said. "So we're really focused on that time of day. And it's been pretty effective."

According to crime statistics, burglaries reported to police inside the subdivision have dropped 43 percent over the last six months, compared to that same period in 2013.

"We've only had four burglaries in the entire 7,000-home subdivision in the last 30 days," Bigham said. "And last week -- not one."

Paul Rafferty is the SCA's safety and security chair.

"I've handled the security for the Civic Association for 10 years," Rafferty said. "But I've never seen a drop like this."

In addition to the private security patrols, Bigham said he credits neighborhood awareness and the introduction of a Citizens Patrol Program organized through the Houston Police Department, through which neighbors keep an eye out for each other.

"No one person can do it alone," said 23-year Sharpstown resident Pat Menville. "We are either going to rise together or fall together. We are mutually dependent. And now to know my friends, and neighbors and I are a lot safer, we don't have to fear (crime) nearly as much."

Still, Sharpstown residents and their leaders are cautiously optimistic about the latest drop in crime.

"Urban crime is not a final battle," said Laster. "There's not an end score. There will always be a new quarter to fight.  But as long as we're committed as neighbors, and as representatives and as civic leaders to fight that fight, I think we're going to have a good quarter."

Eventually the goal is to spread the initiative to surrounding apartment complexes and businesses in Sharpstown, where change hasn't come as fast.

Bigham said, "Our expectation is that we would be working with HPD, and those apartment managers and those investors here very soon to try to replicate some of the success."

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