Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to provide support to the Houston Police Department (HPD) in their efforts to address “an alarming rise in road rage-related shootings in the city of Houston.”
DPS will deploy marked and unmarked patrol units to patrol hot spots identified by HPD and provide multiple resources to support the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crime Prevention operations.
DPS special agents, state troopers and a team of DPS intelligence analysts are being deployed to Houston to conduct gang and drug investigative operations, the governor’s office said Wednesday. DPS will also provide one helicopter and two patrol planes to provide direct air support.
“The State of Texas is working closely with HPD to provide the necessary resources that will effectively combat violence in the Houston community,” Abbott said in a statement. “The support that DPS is providing to HPD will protect Houstonians and crack down on illegal and violent activity, including road rage-related shootings, within the city.”
In November, the number of homicides in Houston was up by 44 percent compared to the same time last year. In October, Houston saw a 36 percent increase of homicides over the same month in 2019.
Gang crime and drug-related murders account for some of the increase, HPD says. But the biggest problem, Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo maintains, is the “broken” bond system judges have implemented releasing violent criminals onto the streets.
“If you would tell me I’d be in a major U.S. city and violent criminals would get out in Texas on $100 bonds, I would have said you’re crazy,” Acevedo argued in November.
“When you think about people committing murder and going out on bond after bond and committing more violent crimes, this isn’t misdemeanor stuff that we’re talking about,” he said in October. “These are violent people with a history of violence charged with more violence.”
Releasing criminals has led witnesses to be reluctant to testify, he argues.
“If you live in an apartment complex where you witness a murder and you know our judges are going to let these violent criminals in one door and out the other, how apt are you to cooperate?” Acevedo asked. “Quite frankly, we have turned our criminal justice system into a laughing stock.”
Another problem, critics argue, is Acevedo’s public refusal to cooperate with Immigration and Customs enforcement.
In October, a 41-year black Houston police veteran, Harold Preston, was killed by an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who had an extensive criminal history and was wanted for deportation. Critics have blamed Acevedo for not following immigration law, arguing if HPD had arrested and detained illegal immigrants for deportation, Preston and others would not have been killed.
According to Department of Homeland Security status indicators, more than 322,000 immigrants have been booked into local Texas jails between June 1, 2011, and June 30, 2020, of which over 219,000 were classified as illegal immigrants by DHS. Texas DPS reports they were charged with “more than 350,000 criminal offenses which included arrests for 640 homicide charges; 39,537 assault charges; 6,647 burglary charges; 43,361 drug charges; 533 kidnapping charges; 18,070 theft charges; 27,482 obstructing police charges; 1,922 robbery charges; 4,238 sexual assault charges; 5,440 sexual offense charges; and 3,575 weapon charges.”
DPS criminal history records indicated that these criminal charges have resulted in “over 138,000 convictions including 293 homicide convictions; 15,980 assault convictions; 3,565 burglary convictions; 20,233 drug convictions; 205 kidnapping convictions; 7,805 theft convictions; 12,660 obstructing police convictions; 1,158 robbery convictions; 2,054 sexual assault convictions; 2,666 sexual offense convictions; and 1,471 weapon convictions.”
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