Hurtt concedes continuing uptick in homicides (update)

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt announced today that January has already seen 21 homicides in Houston, a significant uptick from last year over the same period.

KHOU-11 and the Chronicle have both posted stories to their websites. It's interesting what each outlet led with.

Here's KHOU:

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said Wednesday that homicides, robberies and gang violence were at the top of the department’s list.

From the start of 2006 till Tuesday, there have been 21 homicides in Houston, Chief Hurtt said. It is a 50 percent more than in the same time frame last year.

“Unfortunately we have seen a significant increase since about the middle of last year of violent crime, and we’re taking some steps and hopefully we’re gonna change that direction here in the very near future,” he said.

Recently the Houston Police Department implemented a new task force to tackle four main hot spots for violent crime. Chief Hurtt said he hoped NETT, which stands for Neighborhood Enforcement Team Taskforce, would start seeing results by June or July.

According to Chief Hurtt, evacuees were involved in 23 homicides from September through the end of 2005, either as victims or suspects.

It can only improve, now that the acronym is in place.

Here's the Chronicle:

Katrina evacuees were the victims or suspects in 23 homicides between September and December, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said this morning, doubling the department's earlier numbers on how many killings have been linked to people from Louisiana.

The 23 homicides account for nearly 20 percent of all homicides in the city during that period of time, according to Houston Police Department numbers. Citywide, the homicide rate rose 23 percent last year, with the largest increases in homicides coming at the end of the year.

The homicide increase has continued in January, Hurtt said. The city has had 21 homicides to date, compared with 14 between Jan. 1 and 18 last year.

"It's not a good way to start the year, but we are also living in a city of more than 2 million people," Hurtt said.

While homicides continue at a heightened level, Hurtt said the levels of other violent crimes such as robbery continue to be of major concern.

HPD will begin tracking whether Katrina evacuees are the victims or suspects in all crime, Hurtt said, in part, to help secure federal funds to pay for two overtime initiatives launched last year to target hotspots for criminal activity, particularly in the southwest.

Note that KHOU emphasized the homicide statistic, and what the city is doing about the spike in violent crime. The Chronicle emphasized Katrina evacuees and MayorWhiteChiefHurtt's efforts to turn them into a revenue stream of sorts (I'm not judging whether that's good or bad, just pointing out how well the story dovetails with the administration's efforts and perspective of late).

As Rorschach points out in the comments, the administration had once downplayed concerns of Katrina evacuees stretching thin police resources.

UPDATE: KPRC-2 leads with the crime statistics AND HPD's manpower shortage in their reporting:

A shortage of officers is not the only concern for the Houston Police Department as the number of homicides continues to rise, KPRC Local 2 reported Wednesday.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said the city's homicide rate is up 50 percent in 2006 compared to the same time period last year. As of Jan. 17, 2006, Houston police had reported to 21 homicides. In 2005, the department reported 14 homicides as of Jan. 18.

UPDATE 2: KTRK-13 leads with the crime statistic:

We're just 18 days into 2006, and Houston's murder rate is skyrocketing. According to Chief Harold Hurtt, 21 homicides were reported in the first 17 days of the year. Last year during the same period, the total stood at 14. That's a 50 percent increase.

SUMMARY: Major news outlets in town other than the Chronicle emphasized the crime statistics themselves. The Chronicle emphasized the ties to Katrina, an angle that the White Administration has been pushing hard of late.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/18/06 12:52 PM | Print |

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