Houston Launches 37th ‘March on Crime’ Month After Homicide, Assault Crime Rates Rose Dramatically in 2020

Violent crime is one of the top concerns for residents of Houston’s Harris County according to a recent study conducted by the Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs. While overall crime fell during the pandemic year of 2020, assault crimes and homicides increased dramatically with the latter by 42 percent over the past year.

On Monday Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo joined members of the city council to announce the launch of the city’s 37th annual “March on Crime” initiative for the month of March, and outlined some of the specific actions his department has been taking in conjunction with other law agencies to address criminal activity in the region.

Established in 1984 to address rising crime in black communities, a few years later the initiative was expanded to include Hispanic neighborhoods under the name “Lucha Contra El Crimen,” and then all city residents and includes efforts to provide crime prevention tips to the public and encourage resident communication with law enforcement about criminal activity.

Acevedo highlighted several specific areas of concern for the city including the problem of excessive road rage incidents and “street takeovers” for the purpose of street racing. The chief noted that over the past weekend his team had pursued five vehicles for racing and arrested three, including Kemah Siverand, a defensive back for the Las Vegas Raiders.

“They all went to jail,” said Acevedo, who warned that local authorities would not only seek to detain suspects but were also aggressively using civil asset forfeiture laws to retain vehicles used for street racing.

“These people that engage in this activity love their cars and spend a lot of money on their cars, and guess what? We are seizing cars and we’re forfeiting cars.”

Acevedo urged members of the community to report any street takeover activity but also emphasized the need for residents to practice gun safety in order to combat rising assault and homicide rates.

He urged gun owners to keep weapons out of the hands of young people and to remove guns from volatile situations in which domestic violence is likely, but especially urged owners not to leave guns in vehicles since burglary of motor vehicles continues to be a problem in Houston.

“The most important item you can keep out of your vehicle is your firearms. Texans love firearms; they love their firearms, and we support the [License to Carry] program, but here’s the problem: people are leaving their firearms in their cars, and guess what, the criminals are targeting cars for guns.”

Finally, the chief noted domestic violence continued to be a concern for the community and urged potential victims to reach out to the Houston Police Department, the women’s shelters, the district attorney’s office, or victim’s advocate’s services.  

Acevedo also praised the city’s pilot program using “Shot Spotter,” a surveillance technology that notifies police when gunfire activity is identified.   

“We are actually making arrests within minutes of the shots being discharged because this system is that good because it provides that real-time actionable intelligence that we can actually act on.”

Although he has previously spoken out on bail policy issues in the county, Acevedo did not address the topic on Monday.

Growing concern over bail policies allowing felony suspects to obtain multiple bonds or multiple personal recognizance bonds has recently prompted bipartisan responses from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County commissioners, and state legislators.

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