HOUSTON - The growing violent crime rate is the big problem new Houston Police Chief Troy Finner is looking to tackle after being sworn in Monday, and Houstonians are hopeful he’ll make the difference.
"It’s good having somebody that’s local instead of coming from the outside," said Daniel, a Southwest Houston man who’s glad to see someone who grew up in Houston as the police chief. "He has good information of what’s already happening, and he’s not trying to re-learn stuff."
Houston police monthly crime data shows a nearly 25% increase in the murder rate in Houston, so far in the first two months of the year compared to last year.
One Houston Police Sgt. patrolling Southwest Houston tells FOX 26 violent crimes like shootings, assaults, robberies and murders are occurring now almost nightly in his area.
"You’ve got these people out here killing these kids and killing police," said Felicia Johnson, one Houston woman who is not convinced the pandemic is truly responsible for the increased crime rate. "Everybody’s blaming it on COVID, but this is something that was going on even before COVID. But with COVID, it just made a lot of people frustrated and upset because they’re losing things, and they’re not able to work."
Both the former and new police chief cited the court system as a problem, saying criminals being let out on low bonds does not help deter crime. We talked to people who live and work in Houston who echoed that sentiment.
"They get out on bond," said Johnson. "They commit another crime, then they go back in, then they get another bond and come out to commit another crime. So the judges—some of them need to be replaced. Because if they can’t do their job, what if it was their family? What if it was happening to their family? Then they’d be really ready to stick the book to them."
While some thought increased drug and alcohol use in the pandemic may have contributed to an increased crime rate, others thought crime would be lower in a pandemic due to more people staying home.
"I would say that since COVID, it should have been a little lower since people are inside of their homes and everything," said Andrew Leiva, a Houston resident. "People wouldn’t be as daring."
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Both police officers and members of the public tell FOX 26 they’re hopeful a new police chief bring the return of safety to Houston.
"I’m sure he will," said Izzy O’Malley, a Houston resident. "I think everyone is trying to make everyone safe and be the best they can be."