Law enforcement sees violent crime reduction northwest Harris County
A two-year initiative is seeking to lower crime rates in northwest Harris County as part of a joint effort between the Texas Department of Public Safety, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Precinct 4 Constable’s Office and Houston Police Department.
The operation, known as North Star, originally began in April 2017 and was led by DPS.
“I said, ‘We need to help out with this.’ I know we don’t have a whole lot to help with, but we’re going to throw some resources at this and try to combat some of these robberies in Harris County,” said Major Jason Taylor with Texas DPS.
A majority of the crimes that have taken place in northwest Harris County have tended to be concentrated along FM 1960, Ella Blvd., Kuykendahl Road, Veterans Memorial Drive and the Champions area, he said.
The four agencies have coordinated operations to target criminal hotspots throughout the county.
“The first operation was 10 days long,” said Major Jesse Razo with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
According to statistics compiled by Texas DPS, a total of 1,962 arrests were made between April 2017 to February 2019 in northwest Harris County.
Texas DPS offices made 314 felony arrests, 1,267 misdemeanor arrests and 381 arrests for drunk driving.
The agency also made 301 arrests in the same period in conjunction with the sheriff’s office.
Taylor said that while some crimes, like burglaries of unattended cars, homes and businesses continue, violent crimes have decreased.
“We are making an effort to make an impact on the area along with these agencies here,” he said.
The District 1 Sheriff’s patrol area, which roughly spans between the east to west from North Freeway to Texas 249 and north to south between Beltway 8 to the Montgomery County boundary, has seen a reduction in robberies since North Star was implemented.
District 1 had a 33% decrease of reported robberies, going from 240 in 2017 to 159 in 2018.
Law enforcement presence and perception
Captain Jonathan Zitzman with the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office said his agency would have more deputies available after the construction on a new substation is completed near the North Freeway and Cypresswood.
“We’re going to reassign about 70 deputies out that station. It’ll be a significant increase in police presence in that area,” he said.
While northwest Harris County is generally a safe area to live and work, pockets of areas where crimes to occur more frequently tend to skew the statistics, he said.
Many of the crimes deputies come across are burglaries of unattended vehicles, he said.
“The vast majority of those burglaries are occurring from unlocked vehicles. Very few times is it from smash-and-grabs,” he said.
Captain Steve Spears with the Houston Police Department said crime tends to be low around Willowbrook Mall, except for burglaries in parking lots.
So far in 2019, the police department has tallied 133 vehicle burglaries in the area, which can be avoided, he said.
“We’ve been trying to educate the public in hiding their stuff. Don’t leave stuff in plain view. That’s what’s going to cause a break-in,” he said.
Along with the additional officers and deputies, providing teenagers and children with a more positive view of law enforcement would also help to report crimes and cooperate with investigations.
Zitzman said the perception of police in the media has made young people especially distrustful when incidents occur.
“Some of the things we’re working on this summer is we’re trying to partner up with several churches and, specifically youth programs, educational programs to get the kids in line with trusting the police, being able to open up to the police,” he said.