NYC has the solution to Houston's "explosive crime situation"

KUHF-88.7 ran a story yesterday about Houston Police Officers Union President Hans Marticiuc asking Mayor White and City Council to referee a meeting between the union and HPD Chief Harold Hurtt. This, of course, was a result of the union's survey which showed a large number of HPD officers don't have confidence in Chief Hurtt's leadership.

City Council members suspended the time rules and held a lengthy discussion over Marticiuc's request. Councilmember Shelley Sekula-Gibbs came to the chief's defense, saying the complaints from the officers are probably due to stress from difficult situations which started before Hurtt was hired.

"But now we're looking at having six new police cadet classes, we're trying to reinvigorate and reinfuse quality individuals into your department and take some of the stress off, because I can only imagine what's going on where you're having 300-400 too few officers to take care of this explosive crime situation that we have. So I can imagine that that would be also a morale buster."

You know, HPD's manpower shortage was not a secret. For years there have been warning signs that HPD was going to get hit hard with retirements -- warning signs that Chief Hurtt failed to act upon. Acting as though Chief Hurtt has had no time to address the problem is downright dishonest.

Whatever. The hot air that comes out of City Hall...

On a very related reading note: the latest City Journal has a very interesting story by Heather MacDonald about why New York City's crime rate keeps dropping. DROPPING!

The dimensions of New York’s crime rout are breathtaking. From 1990 to 2000, four of the seven major felonies—homicide, robbery, burglary, and auto theft—dropped over 70 percent. Crime fell across the country during this period, but in New York it plummeted at twice the national average. By 2000, New York’s crime profile looked more like that of a small suburb than a big city, notes University of California sociologist Frank Zimring, whose forthcoming The Great American Crime Decline is the only major study so far that acknowledges the significance of the city’s crime turnaround. Gotham’s homicide rate in 2000 was half that of the big-city average; its robbery rate, which started out 50 percent higher than that of other big cities in 1990, was 10 percent below the average.

The national crime decline flattened out as the new century began. Some cities that were darlings of the media and the criminologists in the nineties have seen sharp increases in murder. Boston, lauded by the New York Times and others as the kinder, gentler corrective to New York’s allegedly overaggressive policing approach, has suffered its highest murder rate in a decade this year. Milwaukee and Memphis had double-digit homicide spikes in 2005. Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco, and Kansas City are also seeing their nineties crime gains erode.

Not New York. From 2000 to 2005, the city’s crime rate fell another 30 percent.

What accounts for New York City's success?

That difference is policing. Throughout the nineties, critics of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the assertive policing that he championed [see here for description of Broken Windows policing] tried to explain away the New York crime turnaround as a mere reflection of the national crime picture. That effort wasn’t persuasive then and has been even less so since 2000.

Community policing is singled out as especially ineffective. And who's a big proponent of community policing? Houston's own Chief Hurtt, of course!

For once, maybe Houston SHOULD look to New York City. A continually dropping crime rate is very world-class!

KEVIN WHITED ADDS: The Chronicle reports that the increasingly befuddled police chief has tried to change the topic, with clumsy talking points:

Hurtt said questions still remain, however, about the manner in which the survey was conducted.

"I think there were some biases as far as the presentation," Hurtt said.


The shortage of officers on the street, Hurtt said, is a major morale issue for the department.

"We realize that we need to hire new people. We started that process, and we're very aggressive," he said.

As the city continues to grow, however, Hurtt said HPD will be hard-pressed to continue adding officers under a 2004 cap that limits the overall increase in city revenue.

"You can't do that," Hurtt said. "I think we have legislated ourselves into a position that's impossible for us."

The presentation didn't seem to be a problem, but there may be some sampling issues. Very well. If the Chief thinks he has the money to commission another survey, then by all means commission another survey. Speaking of money...

As for the 2004 cap -- We know that the Mayor now opposes the revenue cap that he once thought was a very clever way to blunt a citizens' revenue-limitation referendum. As the city's top elected leader, he should make that argument himself, instead of sending his befuddled police chief out to scare citizens. MayorWhiteChiefHurtt's questionable priorities on spending/policing are much more of a concern than the revenue-limitation measures.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 07/26/06 08:09 PM | |

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