HOUSTON – According to Houston police Chief Art Acevedo, there were 286 murders as of the first week of October.
This is a 36% increase in the number of murders compared to this time last year. According to officials with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, there have been 88 murders this year compared to 72 this time last year.
What’s behind this increase?
“It’s a perfect storm,” Acevedo said. “In some cases, it’s related to the pressures brought on by the economic realities families are facing.”
Acevedo believes the Covid19 pandemic fueled some of these homicides.
“It is more widespread than usual and I think that part of that is the COVID-19 piece where people are stuck home, nerves are frayed,” he said.
Acevedo also blames the debate over bond reform in the county.
“When you think about people committing murder and going out on bond after bond and committing more violent crimes,” Acevedo said. “This isn’t misdemeanor stuff that we’re talking about; these are violent people with a history of violence charged with more violence.”
Acevedo also said this problem is leading to a reluctance on the part of witnesses to come forward.
“If you live in an apartment complex where you witness a murder and you know our judges are going to let these violent criminals in one door and out the other, how apt are you to cooperate?” Acevedo said. “Quite frankly we have turned our criminal justice system into a laughing stock.”
Sheriff’s officials told KPRC 2 they believe family violence is the main driver of increasing murders in the county.
What’s being done to address the increase
Mayor Sylvester Turner announced there are six parts of town fueling much of the violent crime increase in Houston.
The Mayor listed Westside, South Gessner, North Belt, Southeast and Midwest as problem areas. The Mayor also announced that every day until the end of the year 110 officers will saturate these areas to try to bring the numbers down.
Families are worried
Many families worry the rising number of murders will leave detectives spread thin when trying to solve these crimes.
“It just really makes me feel like they’re going to really further push his case out,” said Lashay, who asked KPRC 2 to only use her first name.
Lashay’s 27-year-old relative, Deante Hicks, was murdered May 10 off Centre Parkway near Sugar Branch in southwest Houston. The family is from Dallas and has been to Houston frequently, scouring the neighborhood surrounding the murder for answers.
“I’ve been all over the neighborhood with the flyers I have, passed them out to individuals, put them in all of these stores up here,” Lashay said. “We want justice and he deserves it, he did not deserve what happened to him.”
Community activist Quanell X has been helping the family s
“He was catfished by a prostitute. Set-up and the whole plan, from beginning to end, was to rob him when he got here,” Quanell said.
Acevedo said while his detectives are “busy,” they are not overwhelmed.
“They haven’t asked for more manpower or staffing,” Acevedo said. “The commander knows that if they need more resources, we will put more resources into it.”
Acevedo again urges the public to come forward with tips and said there are several ways to do so anonymously. Tips can be reported anonymously through Houston Crimestoppers by calling (713) 222-TIPS or online here.
The Stop Houston Gangs website also takes anonymous tips.
Fueling a growing backlog
The rise in murders also helps fuel a backlog in Harris County criminal court. Devastation by Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 have created a large backlog in the criminal justice system that will take years to clear out. According to information from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, approximately 1,462 people have murder charges pending.
The data shows approximately 528 of these defendants have not yet been arrested.