‘Violent crime is a public health crisis’: Mayor Turner lays out 17-page initiative to help reduce violent crime

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was joined by Houston Police Chief Troy Finner and community partners on Wednesday afternoon to make an announcement about a citywide initiative to reduce violent crime.

Last week, the mayor said the city would lay out additional steps this week that the city intends to take.

During the press conference, Turner introduced a 17-page initiative, called One Safe Houston, to combat violent crime in the city.

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The initiative focuses on four key areas: Violence Reduction and Crime Prevention; Crisis Response Teams; Youth Outreach Opportunities; Key Community Partnerships.

The mayor said there are no easy answers or single initiative by itself to stop the rising in crime.

“The city of Houston, like most major cities across the country, is experiencing a surge in violent crime,” Turner said. “There are no easy answers and no singular initiative standing by itself that adequately addresses rising crime.”

He said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also played a part in the rise of crimes, causing social anxiety, economic uncertainty, and mental health issues. The increase of illegally owned firearms and the court system’s backlog in cases adds to the crime rate hike.

“Other factors contributing to the spike in violent crime include widespread social anxiety, economic uncertainty, mental health concerns, [the] increased presence of illegally owned firearms, and a strained court system plagued by criminal case backlogs that impact the pretrial release and prosecution of violent offenders,” the mayor noted.

Already in the first month of this year, homicides have increased, including assaults against police officers and citizens.

“Since the beginning of the year, our city has felt anything but safe. At times, we have felt like a city under siege because of a violent crime wave that is sweeping across the country and impacting us in Houston,” Turner said.

He said every Houstonian deserves to feel safe while at home, work, shopping, or driving down the street.

The uptick in domestic violence cases has also increased over the past two years in the Houston areas, some even ending in deadly outcomes, according to the mayor.

“Domestic violence cases have more than doubled since 2019 and more people are experiencing mental health distress leading to interactions with police resulting in dangerous or deadly outcomes,” Turner said.

According to a release, the city’s plan outlines a commitment to put more officers on the streets through overtime and cadet classes and creates a $1 million gun buyback program. It also provides $1.5 million in additional funding to the Houston Forensic Science Center to address backlogs and funds domestic violence programs with an additional $3 million to provide more services for survivors and prevention efforts.

KPRC 2 spoke with people in southeast Houston about the issue.

“Something’s happening all the time,” said Rick Orosco, a Houston resident. “Shootings here, shootings there. Daytime, nighttime, you know? It’s crazy.”

“You don’t know what to look for when you open your front door,” said Sheila Boutee, a Houston resident. “You don’t know what you’re going to wake up to, so it’s very scary.”

“There are issues that clearly we need to address but we cannot be addressing them in silence,” said Juan Antonio Sorto, a member of the Super Neighborhood Alliance.

Sorto said he wants to know how the mayor plans to include community input in whatever the city decides to do.

“It needs to be an ongoing process for this issue to be resolved because things are changing by the minute and you need the community to be involved through the entire process,” Sorto said.

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