HOUSTON – When KPRC 2 Investigates discussed the increasing crime rates from downtown to the suburbs, we received a series of responses from several law enforcement agencies. Data shows that no part of the region is safe from crime, but where a person lives can determine what type of crime they will face.
KPRC looked at crime data in four suburban cities and noticed an increase in homicides and auto thefts. While homicides have increased in some suburban areas, the numbers remain single digits and do not match the peak seen in Houston, where the murder rate is up 39%.
KPRC2 is investigating homicides, burglaries and auto thefts for 2018-2021. We plotted them for Sugar Land, Katy, Pearland, and Humble. You can zoom in and see which areas see the most crime.
Are people angrier?
This question has been posed to several law enforcement officials and to University of Houston psychology professor Dr. John Vincent.
“Yes, I think, absolutely it is,” said Vincent.
Vincent said COVID-19 has left many people feeling like life is out of their control.
“I think people often react to this by becoming anxious and angry and having emotions that they are not sure what to do with,” Vincent said.
Several law enforcement officials have also said they have seen a change in behavior.
“The streets sometimes look different. There’s a different energy there, ”said Webster Police Chief Pete Bacon. “Hey, what’s best for me and mine, I’m going to do what’s best for me in this immediate moment and not worry about what the rest of society or the rest of the impacts it does.” may have. This is the feeling I have.
“We have to understand that there is a new normal after a pandemic. People are under a lot of stress, both financially and healthily, ”said Seabrook Police Chief Sean Wright.
“What we are seeing are people changing their behavior and this is very evident in the crime spike,” said Edison Toquica, deputy chief of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
The inhabitants are also feeling the change.
“The country is literally in PTSD,” said Tomaro Bell, head of McGregor Super Neighborhood. “It has an impact on people and they don’t know how, as they say, to play together now. We have people who kill each other because of road rage.
“I don’t feel it, but what I do feel is that people are more isolated from each other,” said Aldo Reyes, a resident of Katy.
“Unfortunately, the criminals don’t let go,” Memorial Villages Police Chief Ray Schultz said. “Criminals are very mobile and they are very, very prolific right now. “
Law enforcement officials we spoke with said they are sharing resources and data more than ever before as many property crimes and armed robberies can be linked to a group or groups. of people traveling from city to city. However, the frequency of certain types of crime varied from region to region.
“Our increases are in the areas of fraud and identity theft,” said Schultz.
Wright said Seabrook is seeing an increase in mental health, drug use and assault appeals. Harris County Ward 7 captain Marcus Grant said they were seeing an increase in car break-ins and business burglaries. Grant attributed some of these crimes to an increase in the number of homeless people moving to the area.
“Things that are going on at home, domestic violence, I’ve seen a pick-up in there,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Eric Fagan said.
The Webster chief said his jurisdiction was seeing an increase in car break-ins, bag snatch thefts and people being followed by the bank after withdrawing money.
“As we kind of got back to normal and people started to come back, at least to our city, to spend their entertainment dollars and their shopping dollars, naturally the criminal element is going to come back as well,” he said. said Bacon.
Bell said she certainly saw the evolution of criminal activity in her neighborhood after COVID restrictions were relaxed and new nightclubs opened in the area.
“Most people didn’t know us, they didn’t even know this neighborhood was here. Now you have people picking us up where we’ve never had this problem before, ”Bell said.
All of the law enforcement officers we spoke with also directly attributed the rising crime rates to the bond reform debate and a backward judicial system.
“Criminals know they’re going to get away with most of these things. It’s almost like a catch and release system, ”Grant said. “Law enforcement can’t catch the same guys over and over again. I know no one wants to hear that answer, but it’s the truth. You spend resources to catch the same guy 10 times.
The dual impact of Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-related shutdown also left an estimated 100,000 cases pending in our courts. Harris County commissioners have approved nearly $ 20 million to try to reduce the backlog, including hiring three additional guest judges to hear the cases.
“I think there is less fear of the consequences,” Bacon said.
“Fear is not the answer and we must not give up our rights because of fear,” Fagan said.
Fagan said the community can do a lot to help bring these numbers down.
“These are crimes of opportunity, people leaving things in their cars, not knowing they are going home, people following them,” Fagan said.
Toquica said that in addition to using data to identify crime hotspots, departments are changing patrol schedules to ensure there are no gaps in coverage, as well as deployment new technologies to link cases that would otherwise have been viewed as isolated incidents.
“Our children go to school with your children, our grandchildren go to school with your grandchildren, we live in the same neighborhoods. We want the same type, the same level of safety for our families as yours. We are in the same boat, ”Toquica said.
Reyes, who founded a neighborhood watch program in his Katy neighborhood in 2008, said engaging with law enforcement and getting to know your neighbors can go a long way in keeping crime rates low. His concern is that the “sense of community” is eroding.
“There isn’t that sense of community involvement, so maybe it’s indifference, that’s what I see. I think it’s almost as bad as anger because indifference means you don’t really care what’s going on next, ”Reyes said.
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