Hurtt: You're pretty safe in Houston, unless you wind up dead!
Houston gets a prominent mention in an Associated Press story today about rising crime nationwide:
Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to FBI data.
Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years.
Murders jumped from 272 to 334 in Houston, a 23 percent spike; from 330 to 377 in Philadelphia, a 14 percent rise; and from 131 to 144 in Las Vegas, a 10 percent increase.
Despite the national numbers, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York were among several large cities that saw the number of murders drop.
Criminal justice experts said the statistics reflect the nation's complacency in fighting crime, a product of dramatic declines in the 1990s and the abandonment of effective programs that emphasized prevention, putting more police officers on the street and controlling the spread of guns.
"We see that budgets for policing are being slashed and the federal government has gotten out of that business," said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston.
We can all make light of rankings that show Houston as the fattest city, but leading the nation in a category like this isn't something that's so funny, especially since local pols neglected HPD's manpower issues for years. Indeed, it's the sort of thing that can derail ambitious Democratic mayors who hope to use municipal government as a springboard to statewide office.
Fortunately, the city's bungling police chief met with the Houston Chronicle's equally bungling editorial board recently, and that secretive group shared this tidbit from their secret meeting over the weekend:
At a recent meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt cited gang-related murders as a major factor that has driven the city's homicide totals to the highest in more than a decade. "There is no fear in some of these guys that are dying," commented Hurtt. "They don't mind killing, because they don't mind to die themselves. There are random killings today to instill fear in a community."
According to the chief, caution and common sense can protect most citizens. "Overall in the city of Houston, you're pretty safe," says Hurtt. "If you're not involved in specific types of behavior, not out on the streets at particular times of night and particular areas of the city, you have a pretty good chance of not becoming a victim of violent crime in the city of Houston."
Every time that man opens his mouth, it's an adventure.
There's no report on whether the editorial board's resident hothead, Veronica Bucio, saw fit to call Chief Hurtt a liar. Perhaps such disrespect is reserved solely for federal officeholders, such as the Attorney General and Rep. John Culberson.