Houston's Crime Rate: Numbers Versus Perception

Despite a startling eight shootings in one night this week, Houston officials say the crime rate is better than it has been in nearly 20 years. Laurie Johnson reports.

In a sharp juxtaposition, Houston Mayor Bill White touted lower crime rates in his report to city council immediately following a night in which four people were shot and killed and another four wounded. But despite the surprising number of shootings this week, the mayor says the homicide rate is down.

"And we're not at a pretty low level of homicides, at least for the last three months. Violent crime, in the first three months, is down from last year. And last year the total Part 1 crimes is down. But it is also true that we live in a big city and any crime is a serious crime and there are people out there that are up to no good, who prey on the vulnerable. And we need to be vigilant."

The city implemented two initiatives a little more than a year ago to reduce crime. Apartment security and convenience store ordinances were the focus of the mayor's report. Houston Police Assistant Chief Michael Thaler says 30 apartment complexes were targeted and required to implement specific strategies to improve crime rates.

"Before the remedial strategies put in place we measured crime at a certain level. Afterwards, we saw a decrease of 28 percent after the strategies we put in place. Whereas apartment communities overall became 8 percent safer, these apartment communities that were targeted became 28 percent safer, or had 28 percent fewer crimes is a better way to say it."

HPD also documented a 17 percent overall reduction in convenience store crime.

Mayor White says stores that implement safety requirements such as security cameras, better lighting and alarm systems showed improvements over stores that didn't make changes.

"There is no neighborhood in the city — no neighborhood — where most of the people are criminals. Every neighborhood I've ever been to in the city wants safety and people want a place when they go in to shop where it's a safe place."

Houston officials say more than 700 convenience stores are registered with the city and there are likely hundreds more not registered. And roughly half of Houston's population lives in apartments.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.  

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...