Initiative Goes Viral
by: Pat Hernandez, September 23, 2010 10:09:00 pm
The website Stop Houston Gangs.org was created to keep the community informed about gangs in the area. It will allow residents to report anonymous tips about criminal gang activity.
"You know, the gangs say that they own the night, well this website shines the light of day on those thugs."
That's Harris County DA Pat Lykos. She stays combining law enforcement with residents will help make a dent in gang activity here.
"If we're gonna make Texas and Harris County safer, it's not just law enforcement, it's the entire community that must be involved. And parents and educators can learn from this website, and also of extreme value is that you can offer through the website anonymously. They're not gonna be tracked. It is all of our responsibility to end this scourge of gang violence."
It's estimated there are more than 200 known gangs with at least 10,000 members in the area. For the first eight months of the year, there's actually been a reduction in gang crime in Houston, compared to the same period
last year. But special agent Richard Powers of the FBI in Houston says it's no reason to stop.
"Gang activity is permeating not just all major cities within the United States, but over the last several years, we have suburban areas, even rural areas that are impacted by gang activity, and that's why it's so important to follow up. Although we have a reduction, we see some reduction in gang crime in our city, we cannot rest. We have to ensure that no gang member views Houston as a safe haven for their activity."
The website lists gangs in the area, statistics on gang activity, how to look for signs and markings or tattoos, and how to tell if criminal activity is gang related. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia headed the mayor's anti-gang office when he was a Houston police officer. He calls the website a vital tool in attracting residents.
"The mayor's anti gang office years ago, had identified the trend of gangs similar to the rest of society, of going to blogs and texting and using the internet and emails to communicate and to put their business out there. It makes sense that law enforcement should also be following the same trend."
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland calls the website a perfect example of what community policing is all about.
"We are not going to wait around and then see gang crimes rise again and get out of control, like in some other parts of the United States. So, this is just another tool that we're looking at as being a proactive tool."