CHANNELVIEW – Harris County Precinct 2 hosted a meeting with the public last Thursday evening, Sept. 1 at the Bill Neal Center in Channelview. Public concern about crime in the community has been running strong, and this forum was meant to hear complaints, and also to present information on initiatives underway by authorities to counter the criminal activity.
Subjects that were covered by the presenters included Stray Dogs, a new service phone number, 3-1- 1 to request county services, crime rates as seen in data captures in the Channelview area, random gunfire, ShotSpotter to find shooters, VIPER to arrest violent criminals, homeless persons, nuisance properties, workforce jobs for homeless, or Employ2Empower, and health concerns in the East side of Harris County.
Garcia explained that Public Safety was his #1 priority, but that he plans on aN holistic approach, that includes “Cops, Courts, and Community.”
Garcia’s community-focused approach to solving the underlying causes of crime includes investing in programs that address youth, food insecurity and hunger, affordable housing, behavioral health, and job training.
He also has acted to increase funding for a new full-time district court judge, 6 associate judges, visiting judges, and jury operations expansion. To help Cops, Garcia has voted to increase Sheriff funding, Constable funding, an increase in salaries, a Viper Warrants task force, and over 400 new vehicles.
To aid the Courts, Garcia has voted for a 15% increase in funding for the District Attorney. This has been used for a new Environmental Crimes Unit, new prosecutors, and salary increases.
To aid the Community, Garcia has voted for additional funds for mental health and public health initiatives, violence deterrent programs, Holistic Assistance Response Teams (instead of Deputies attempting to deal with domestic problems), nuisance abatement to clear 1100+ properties, and pre-emptive youth programs.
Garcia said that over $30 million had been invested in parks, trails, community centers, public wifi, sidewalks, and solar-powered lighting.
Because of great public concern for packs of stray dogs roaming streets at night, HCSO Deputy Charles made a presentation on what the county is doing to deter this problem, and how the public can assist. He said the HCSO Sheriff’s office also deals with coyotes, feral hogs, and opossums. There is a number you can call for assistance with dangerous or stray dogs, 281-999- 3191. He emphasized that responsible pet owners, who microchip and spay or neuter their animals, and keep them leashed, can help the problem a great deal.
Garcia said that the county now has a service number, 3-1-1 which answers calls for all county services. This is similar to the service that the city has had for some time. Rina Fava of the County Universal Services Department made a presentation of all the benefits available to county residents by calling this number.
Channelview superintendent Dr. Tory Hill made a brief talk about the measures the district has taken to ensure safety for the students, He mentioned programs and training required by the state, which CVISD is following. He also revealed that the district has installed two license plate readers on Sheldon Road, to keep track of persons who might be a threat. This comment raised some concern and objections from the audience.
HCSO Patrol Captain Nathan Douglas presented a summary of deputy’s activities in the Channelview area, and cited statistics that he said indicated a relatively low violent crime rate compared with other areas around the county. Public comments from the audience indicated that they desired more deputies patrolling the area, removal of homeless from the underpasses, and concern about random gunfire at night in some communities, including Channelwood.
Garcia indicated that these officers and their departments have had their budgets increased this year. In addition, he said technology such as ShotSpotter was a “force magnifier” reducing crime with fewer personnel.
He also praised the new VIPER program, that is intended to remove violent criminal who are out on bond. Working with the U.S. Marshal’s service, and local constables, he said the task force is charged with making felony warrant arrests. Combined with increases in judges, court capacity, and district attorney prosecutors, the affect is anticipated in a serious reduction in crime, especially with repeat offenders.