Violent crime decreased in Houston by about 10.4 percent last year despite a slight increase in homicides, police said.
The reduction marks a continuing downward movement of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults over the past five years.
“We might not get them all, but I promise in the long-term, we’re trending in the right direction,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Homicide was the only category that saw an increase — 279 in 2018, up from 269 homicides in 2017. That number is still less than the 301 homicides in 2016, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Turner said at the press conference. “But again, any one of these categories, as long as there’s a number other than zero, we’re not where we should be.”
The numbers mirror trends in other large cities across the country over the last year, according to research from the Brennan Center, which found that overall, crime rates fell modestly in 2018, with larger reductions in violent crime. The increase in homicides in Houston was the outlier: across the nation, murder rates declined by an estimated 6 percent, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis.
About 37 percent of the homicides stemmed from gang violence or family violence incidents, Acevedo said.
Gang violence – a hot topic because of several high-profile slayings of children in recent months – will be addressed through partnerships with federal groups, according to the chief.
But gang violence doesn’t overall seem to be increasing or decreasing, in Acevedo’s opinion. Instead, “too many of the violent criminals that we arrest are not staying behind bars” and bonding out of jail, Acevedo said.
Acevedo also touted double digit decreases in robberies and aggravated assaults in 2018, as well as reductions in nonviolent crimes, although to less drastic extents. Burglaries, thefts and auto thefts declined by a combined 2.8 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Traffic accidents decreased by nearly 2,000 incidents from the previous year, and traffic-related injuries climbed by almost 50 instances, according to the data.
Traffic fatalities decreased by 16.60 percent, Acevedo said, counting 40 fewer deadly crashes. Compared with the 241 people who died in the crashes in 2017, police counted 201 fatal crashes in 2018.
“Traffic fatalities are just as final as murders,” Acevedo said. “They’re just as tragic as murders; they’re just as painful as murders.”
Issued violations of traffic laws also spiked, as did DWI arrests. Police arrested 5,182 people on DWI charges, Acevedo said. DWI-related accidents increased by almost 28 percent, however, with 2,228 people hurt in the crashes compared with more than 1,700 injured in 2017.
Response times declined as well, with crime-in-progress calls taking an average of 5.5 minutes for officers to get on scene, according to Houston police records. Other urgent crimes, which aren’t in progress, took 10.15 minutes in response.
“We’re not doing as good as we want to be, but you can only squeeze so much out of a lemon,” Acevedo said. “We’re still pretty darn good.”
This year’s crime statistics come from combined Uniform Crime Reports and the National Incident-Based Reporting System