Houston Police Chief Blames Pandemic for Crime Increase
In June, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told law enforcement specialists in a recent summit that the pandemic had a large impact on the increasing crime rates in the city. During the COVID-19 global pandemic, social services were suspended and the courts became backlogged. Some of that backlog had been occurring since Hurricane Harvey hit, before the pandemic. The combination of backlogged courts and suspended social services helped shape a massive wave of violent crime that has swept through the city this year.
In 2021, the city’s homicides and aggravated assaults increased by 42 percent. Since the start of the new year, more than 220 homicides were reported. This increase comes on the heels of an already increased year in homicides. In 2020, more than 400 homicides occurred in Houston, the most in 10 years. Most of these homicides involved the use of handguns.
Although handgun use has increased the homicide rate in the city, lawmakers passed HB1927. This bill eliminates the requirements to obtain a license to legally carry handguns. It goes into effect on September 1st.
Police Reform in Houston
This increase in violent crime has led to many reforms within the department. Chief Finner said that police can no longer arrest nonviolent individuals who need treatment due to substance abuse or mental illness. Instead, he wants to hire and train additional clinicians and counselors to handle those cases.
This policy reform was part of Mayor Turner’s $25 million budget to implement crisis intervention policies.
Other forms of police reform included in the budget were:
- Overhaul of the Independent Police Oversight Board
- Ban on no-knock warrants for nonviolent offenses
- Body camera policy
- The requirement to release video of officer shootings within 30 days
Police Chief Finner also wants to identify neighborhoods that need better access to viable employment, better education, and support systems. He hopes this will stop minor criminals from turning to a life of crime and engaging in felony offenses.
Repeat Offenders in Houston
Many law enforcement officials expressed frustration because even now — a year after the pandemic began — the jails are still at their maximum capacity. This results in repeat offenders being released shortly after their arrest.
Crime Stoppers have long raised concerns about criminals being released too soon from jail or on low-cost bail. They note a long list of cases where individuals released went on to commit more serious crimes. But researchers aren’t convinced that low bail has much to do with this recent rise in Houston crime.
According to researchers and criminal justice experts, the increase in homicides had more to do with poor mental health issues surrounding the pandemic and the fallout from police violence.
Caught in the System?
Being arrested and charged with a crime can be a scary experience. In many cases, you can find yourself suddenly trapped in the criminal system. The criminal justice system is designed to punish offenders and rehabilitate them.
Unfortunately, with courts overloaded these days, rehabilitation doesn’t often occur. Instead, individuals can find themselves trapped in the system either waiting for trial, serving time, or being released back on the street without the resources necessary to rebuild their lives.
With Houston courts backlogged, these cases can take months and even years to conclude. During this time, your life may be in a constant state of disarray.
At Roger G. Jain & Associates, we understand the issues facing individuals facing criminal charges. We know the impact these charges can have on your employment status, your personal life, and your future. That’s why we work quickly to have these charges reduced or dismissed. We want you to be able to move forward in your life unencumbered by past mistakes. Let us help you do just that.
Contact Our Experienced Houston Defense Attorneys Today
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Houston, you need a Houston criminal defense lawyer on your side. At Roger G. Jain & Associates, P.C., our Houston criminal defense attorneys will help you protect you and your freedom at every turn— no matter what your situation may be. We know the prosecutors, courts, and judges that will be a part of your case in Houston. This knowledge and experience help us aggressively fight for you.
Don’t take your criminal charges lightly. Call us today at 713-981-0600 or fill out our confidential contact form, and begin building your defense. We are here to help you through this difficult time. You deserve protection after an arrest.
Roger Jain is a dedicated trial lawyer who assists his clients in the following areas of practice: civil litigation, business law, criminal defense, juvenile law, estate planning and family Law.