by: Laurie Johnson, January 29, 2007 12:01:00 am
About two dozen business owners and merchants gathered in a restaurant near the corner of Hillcroft and Harwin to voice their concerns about rising crime. Houston City Councilman MJ Khan represents the area and organized the meeting between the community and law enforcement. He says a FEMA grant boosted crimefighting, but that grant is about to run out.
"A lot of those resources, like the overtime hours and mobile unit and all those were dedicated to southwest Houston and that has really brought some very well-received improvements in crime statistics. But that doesn't mean that we can be lax. That just means we have to continue to do whatever works and whatever good thing we can."
Violent and non-violent crime in the Fondren district rose consistently in 2006 until around October, when HPD officials say the rates started to drop. Saeed Gaddi is the president of the Pakistani American Association of Texas. He says business owners in the area feel a lack of uniformed presence and are especially vulnerable at the end of the day when they're closing up shop and heading home with cash or merchandise.
"And a lot of people they have this problem that when they go home, even though the live in SugarLand or different part of the town, people follow them. If we have like a presentation of Houston Police Department here while they're closing the businesses or they're leaving home, if the presence is over there then it will be just better for them."
HPD Chief Harold Hurtt listened to the concerns of business owners and property managers who say many people in the area feel there is too much focus on traffic enforcement and not enough patrol cars. Hurtt says one tool the department is developing is a real-time crime analysis center.
"We're going to do a better job of tracking calls as they come in to the 9-1-1 center, the HEC center. We're also going to be looking at crime statistics as they develop as well as when we have a major crime like a homicide we're going to be able to freeze literally that time that that event occured and look at maybe a mile, maybe two miles of that area and find out everything that went on -- all the suspicious person calls that came in, suspicious vehicle -- any unusual activities."
Hurtt says the real-time analysis will help officers identify crime trends as they're happening. Some people at the meeting suggested many crimes go unreported because there's a perception in the community that the process is time-consuming and lacking in results. Hurtt asked the business owners to report all crimes and to spread the word in the community to do the same. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.