KHOU: Mayor slashes HPD manpower initiatives

Since the big "state of the city" address, the mayor's PR machine has been in full spin mode on the absolutely fabulous job the administration has done on crime.

The Chronicle's reporting after the big blitz from the administration emphasized that one measurement of crime (overall crime per 100,000 residents) saw a 5.7% drop year on year, even though murders per 100,000 residents saw a 5% increase year on year. The reporting did not make clear that those figures rely heavily on city estimates of population increases, nor did the reporting equally emphasize raw crime statistics.

Those raw crime statistics were available in an accompanying graphics box, and it's easy to see why the administration preferred not emphasize them. Of the seven categories measured, four saw increases, two saw declines, and one remained roughly the same from year to year. That's useful information. It's also useful to compare the crime statistics with earlier years (pdf link) -- for example, murders have surged above 300+ per year in the last two years of the White Administration, after remaining below that for several years.

But the Administration really doesn't want people looking at those numbers too closely. Indeed, as Jeff McShan reports for KHOU-11, Mayor White is really tired of this tedious crime stuff and wants to move on to other spending priorities:

There are big changes in the Houston Police Department as all overtime for Houston police officers is being cut and classes to train new police new officers are also being scaled back.

There is a fear among many inside the department that crime stats will soon rise again, thanks to a big financial cutback quietly handed down by Mayor Bill White.

[snip]

High ranking sources inside HPD told 11 News that overtime programs that have blanketed crime ridden areas for months deterring a lot of crime are now gone.

Police Chief Harold Hurtt reportedly asked the mayor for $15 million to pay for continued overtime patrols through June but that request was refused.

We learned he relayed the bad news to his command staff at a retreat in Galveston Wednesday.

Since a close look at the statistics shows crime is still increasing across several categories and is still well above pre-Katrina figures, it is not good news at all for Houstonians that Mayor White has decided once again to de-prioritize HPD's significant manpower shortage.

RELATED COVERAGE: Chief Hurtt says Houston's crime rate is down, others aren't so sure (Gene Apodaca, KTRK-13).

UPDATE (01-26-2007): A reader passes along a memo from Mayor White that disputes assertions in the KHOU story referenced above. I've asked the Mayor's press shop to be added to their press distribution lists countless times, without the courtesy of a response one way or the other. Obviously, there's no way for the little blog to post such information if we never receive it, but at least we can note that mayor disputes the story. We'll post any followup as well.

UPDATE (01-28-2007): Followup posted here.

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Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/26/07 12:00 AM | Print |

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