HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner and city leaders gathered to discuss the city's efforts to prevent domestic violence for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The press conference was held at 1 p.m. at Houston City Hall.
Turner said he is proud of local efforts from organizations and authorities who are taking the initiatives to help victims of domestic violence. He also asked the city of Houston to take a pledge to report domestic violence.
"Houston does not tolerate domestic violence in October or in any month," Turner said.
He said the number of domestic violence reports is increasing in the Houston area. Turner said about 20,551 domestic violence incidents have been reported in 2018 so far. He said this is an increase from 2017, when 19,761 domestic violence cases were reported.
"The city is approaching this holistically, through support networks, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. In fact, it will take the whole city operating as a community to address the situation," Turner said.
Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, president and CEO of the Houston Area Women's Center, said domestic violence causes a ripple effect on many people in the community.
"Violence makes ripples wherever it is found. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, one of three Texans experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime," Whitehurst said. "Each of those survivors have a role in their communities, they have friends, they have families, they have coworkers, people who know and care for them -- each of those connections are affected by the violence that their abuser inflicts. It is more than a ripple. It is a wave."
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said domestic violence and sexual assault cases are the most underreported crimes.
"The crimes that are most underreported are crimes of domestic violence and sexual abuse. They're not reported in a timely manner, if at all," Acevedo said.
He said he is proud of his team and local leaders who have created a safe space for victims and their families. Acevedo said there have been 35 family domestic homicides reported in 2018 and 31 homicides in 2017.
"So far this year, we've had, like the mayor talked about, 35 family violence homicides in our city. That's 35 families who have had a loved one's life taken," he said.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the increasing number of domestic violence incidents being reported is a good thing. Ogg said local authorities are properly equipped and trained to handle domestic violence cases so the victim can feel more protected.
"Data shows that our murder rate, to a 1/4th to a 1/3rd is being driven by domestic homicides," she said. "We have internal policies to make sure domestic violence is important to us because domestic violence is costing too many lives."
Local officials and faith leaders from all of the Houston's major religions will be at a vigil where they will read the names of victims who lost their lives to domestic violence in October.