Investing in Solutions That Are Smart and Tough On Crime

All across America, violent crime has increased and sadly Harris County has not been immune to this national trend. It’s no secret what is driving crime both here and across the nation -- the economic consequences of the pandemic and the widespread availability and use of guns on our streets. We owe it to the law enforcement officers and communities we serve to help them and our courts prevent and fight violent crime from all sides. While the situation is critical, we are using every tool we have to fight rising crime rates in a sustainable, impactful way that will yield results for years to come. Over the past three years we’ve made smart, historic investments in fighting crime and the safety of our neighborhoods.

Judge Hidalgo’s crime strategy focuses on three areas:

  1. Reducing the unacceptable backlog in criminal court cases
  2. Investing in programs that are smart on crime, not just tough on crime
  3. Promoting commons sense gun safety solutions

Major Initiatives

Supporting Law Enforcement and First Responders

Under Judge Hidalgo’s leadership, Harris has increased the budgets for every law enforcement agency in the county, including Constables and the District Attorney. We’ve invested millions to support our law enforcement as they focus on the most violent crimes by approving additional overtime funding for detectives in the Harris County Sheriff's Office’s Violent Crimes, Adult Special Crimes, and Child Abuse Units. The County has improved information sharing, expedited investigations, and targeted investigations focusing on repeat offenders and organized criminal activity in known hotspots. Additionally, unused public safety funds have been identified and reinvested to address recent increases in gun-related crime.

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Reducing Harris County’s Court Case Backlog

Justice delayed is justice denied and while some categories of crime are increasing, thousands of criminal cases are pending in Harris County. As more and more time passes from when a crime is committed to the resolution of a case, victims feel ignored, perpetrators feel empowered, and those accused who are innocent feel left behind. To help the judicial branch of our government move through this backlog of criminal cases, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court have passed:

  • Funding for visiting judges to help support our associate judges get through cases.
  • A major and historic $15M investment in technology for law enforcement which makes body cam systems more efficient, making necessary evidence available more quickly to speed up processing of court cases.
  • The approval of $600,000 dollars in funds to expand jury operations.
  • support for the Texas legislature to add three additional criminal district courts in Harris County.

Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods

Blighted buildings, dark streets, and unsafe and abandoned structures serve as incubators of crime and gun violence. That’s why we passed a new $50 million Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods program -- a research-based crime prevention and neighborhood safety program that uses data to target county neighborhoods where decay and abandonment are driving violent crime. The program will improve street lighting, sidewalks, and visibility in residential areas, address longstanding blighted and abandoned structures, restore vacant lots, and implement other improvements shown to enhance public safety.

Holistic Assistance Response Teams

To reduce crime we have to address the root causes of crime which are often directly related to health and social challenges like mental illness and substance use disorders. In order to do this Harris County Commissioner's Court is designating $5 million to create Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART) to help free up law enforcement from having to deal with calls involving mental illness, substance use, homelessness, and social welfare. HART teams are staffed with trained behavioral and mental health responders.

Gun Violence Interruption Program

Harris County’s innovative $6 million Gun Violence Interruption Program addresses gun violence in our community directly and stops violence before it happens:

  • First, the program connects with people at risk by identifying individuals & locations that are most highly impacted by violence, including hospital patients who are victims of serious violent injuries.
  • Second, it targets the root causes of gun violence by assigning aforementioned people at risk with caseworkers from a variety of disciplines to help with services like mental health counseling, substance use treatment, employment, and support exiting gangs.
  • Third, it enlists community leaders to fight back at the neighborhood level and stop violence before it happens. Workers identify ongoing conflicts by talking to key people in the community about disputes, recent arrests or prison releases, and other situations and use mediation techniques to resolve them peacefully.