HOUSTON – KPRC 2 Investigates looked at four different categories of crime reported over a period of five years -- from 2016, before Art Acevedo became Houston’s chief of police, through 2020, his last full year. Then, those numbers were compared to those numbers with the city’s trend in crime since 1985.
2016-2020: Crime on the rise
According to FBI data, aggravated assault cases have been trending up since 2016, with a high in 2020 when 16,415 aggravated assault cases were reported. There were 12,487 in 2016, the year Acevedo came to Houston.
From 2016 to 2017, there was a drop in car theft cases in the city of Houston. The number of cases steadily climbed through 2020. In 2017 there were 11,596 cases and by 2020 the FBI reported 14,669 cases.
For most of Acevedo’s tenure, the homicide rate hovered between approximately 260 to 300 cases a year. However, in 2020 it dramatically increased to 385.
According to FBI statistics, incidents of robbery are down. In the last five years, robberies went from 9,962 in 2016 to 8,816 in 2020.
1985 to 2020
Aggravated assault cases: Highest in 35 Years
Analyzing the greater trend, according to FBI data, aggravated assault cases have been trending up since 1985. There was a dip in 2013, with 10,270 cases reported. But 2020 was the highest reported year since 1985.
In the long term, cases of motor vehicle theft/stolen cars were on the decline since the 1990s. However, since 2017 there was an uptick in cases.
According to FBI statistics, incidents of robbery are down. The number of robberies are at their lowest since 2011.
Homicide cases: Highest in 25 years
Homicide cases are currently at their highest number in nearly 25 years.
Last year, the number of cases peaked at 385 cases. The city last saw a surge in 2006 with 376 cases. Tut the last time the city topped 400 was in 1993.
The highest number was in 1991 with 608.
How did we get here? Where do you go from here?
Before leaving for Miami, Acevedo warned Houstonians, this year will be worse than last.
“Get ready for 500 murders,” Acevedo said.
“That’s a big jump,” said Shelby Stewart, a civil rights activist and former HPD Sergeant.
“I don’t believe that Chief Acevedo had a policing strategy,” Stewart said.
“We cannot sit back and wait for the upward trend in crime to change on its own,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner made the statement following the swearing-in of new HPD Chief Houston Troy Finner.
The Houston native is viewed as part of the solution to the city’s violent crime surge.
“His job as chief of police will not be easy, but I am confident that he is the right person at the right time for this job,” said Turner.
Three of Finner’s planned strategies include:
- Increasing the number of cases highlighted by Crime Stoppers.
- Getting all influential members of the criminal justice system (officers, prosecutors, judges) in the same room for a constructive dialogue on how to reverse the crime trend.
- Relying on the public to help solve cases.
“Men, women, stand up,” Finner said. after he was sworn in. “Be good people. Be good witnesses when we need you.”
“He’s got a problem on his hands, but the good thing about him is that he is from the community,” said Dr. Howard Henderson, director of the Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University.
Henderson said having a chief who grew up in the Fifth Ward is a good thing for Houstonians.
“There is just no way you are going to be able to solve crime without understanding how people think in these different communities,” said Henderson.
TSU study examines young male gun possession in urban areas
Currently, the Center for Justice Research is conducting a four-city analysis of young male gun possession in urban areas. The four cities being analyzed are Houston, Baltimore, Maryland; Jackson, Mississippi; and Wilmington, Delaware.
“We wanted to get a better understanding of communities in the country,” said Henderson.
The two-year study is the result of a grant awarded this past December through the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research organization.
“The goal is to understand the motivating factors to help reduce gun violence,” Henderson said.
Henderson also revealed one of the surprises found during the study.
“Houston’s violent crime rate, even though it is high, you would expect it to be much higher given its population,” said Henderson who is part of the team producing the study. Henderson said those findings also translate to an opportunity.
“It tells me Houston has a chance to actually see reductions unparalleled to other parts of the country. It is still manageable.” Henderson said.
“Houston has an opportunity to show major strides in this area and they need to continue to establish relationships between the community and the criminal justice system,” Henderson added.
HPD is facing stiff challenges with rising crime. Involvement from the community in fighting crime is a request not only from Finner but also Turner. Henderson said it is important to have a dialogue between all parties involved, but to reform crime and the justice system overall there two pivotal acts that must take place.
“Listen and act on recommendations from the community,” Henderson said.
The study is set to be completed by December 2022.