HOUSTON – For a period in January, the city of Houston was at the top among the nation’s five largest cities for the most homicides thus far in 2022.
A spot that the city has not been in for decades.
“Violent crime is a public health crisis,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner during a recent news conference at City Hall.
As of Monday, Feb. 7, only Chicago (61) was ahead of Houston (57) for the total number of homicides in 2022. New York City and Los Angeles, the nation’s top two cities, were way behind. In the case of New York City, they had 23 fewer homicides this year.
The numbers also show a significant trend for Houston. The city’s year-to-year trend with homicides has increased by 54%.
2022 HOMICIDE STATS FOR TOP CITIES IN THE U.S.
Stats Provided By Police Departments For All Cities
- Chicago – 61 (Up 2%)
- Houston – 57 (Up 54%)
- New York City - 34 (Down 13%)
- Los Angeles - 30 (Down 23%)*
*The First four cities are reflective through 2-6-22. LAPD stats were only through 1-29-22*
KPRC 2 Investigates analysis of HPD’s released data for January found 47 homicides happened in more than 20 zip codes. Retired HPD Sergeant Shelby Stewart said that aside from homicides “going on everywhere,” Chief Finner is also facing a tall order.
“Chief Finner has a hell of a job on his hands,” said Stewart.
Bond reform and the backlog with Harris County courts are two key reasons that are helping fuel the crisis that is concerning for law enforcement.
“We’ve got a perfect storm here, and I am concerned for the city of Houston,” said HPD Union President Doug Griffith.
So, what’s being done to curb the homicide numbers? Last Wednesday, Turner unveiled his latest crime fight initiative, a 17-page plan focused on violence reduction and crime prevention.
“I have authorized chief Finner and HPD to add an additional 125 officers per day on overtime,” said Turner.
The total cost in HPD overtime alone? $5.7 million. The overtime strategy is similar to a $4.1 million overtime initiative Turner announced two years ago, but homicides in Houston only continued to rise.
When asked by KPRC 2 Investigates asked Turner why he believes it will work this time if it has not with regards to the numbers of homicides?
“Let me answer this because you know why, it’s comprehensive in nature,” Mayor Turner answered.
Turner’s $44-million plan is filled with funding for programs and strategies.
What it doesn’t include are more HPD officers. Turner said he believes they need “at least 600 more,” while the union’s position is calling for more.
“We’re down to about 1,500 actual street-level patrol officers,” said Griffith.
More officers are part of the solution to curb homicides for many.
“When you don’t have enough officers just doing regular patrols on the street and reducing their visibility, it makes criminals act in a different way,” Griffith said.
Former U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick agrees.
“More police officers on the streets and less turnover in the department and transfers in the department, those are officers that get to know their neighborhoods,” said Patrick who is also a former Harris County Prosecutor.
U.S Representative Al Green said the attitude towards the police is changing and the momentum is shifting in favor of law enforcement.
“Sometimes we go too far to the left or to the right with that pendulum, but I think the pendulum is in a point now where the people understand the need for protection as well as for enforcement,” said Green.
For now, the strategy is more overtime dollars funded by federal COVID relief funds.
As Chief Finner pointed out last Wednesday, it’s a temporary fix.
“We can pay a lot of overtime, but that money at some point is going to run out,” he said.