HOUSTON - Houston is now one of 12 U.S. cities set to receive intensive assistance from the Department of Justice to fight a rash of violent crime, including murders.
"We're excited to see city of Houston has been selected," said Houston police Chief Art Acevedo. "It's good for us."
According to FBI data from 2016, of the 10 largest cities in the country, Houston has the highest violent crime rate with 104.3 violent crimes per 10,000 people. That is more than cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
"One of the reasons we were selected is obviously the amount of crime and challenges we have," Acevedo said. "Despite our best efforts, we still have a ways to go."
The sliver of good news is homicides are down in Houston so far this year. The FBI's numbers from 2016 show Houston ranked third in murders with 302 just behind Chicago and New York.
Acevedo says a part of the problem is understaffing on the streets.
"Look at the size of the city. It's a city is significantly under policed at the local level," Acevedo said.
FBI data from 2015 show Houston had 22.8 officers per 10,000 people. The national average that year was 23.3. With fewer bodies on the street, violent crime has crept up. The Justice Department now hopes it can turn the tide.
"We'll have a diagnostic piece, they'll come in here with different subject matter experts, different entities from the federal government to assess what our challenges are," Acevedo said.
The Chief says his department will also roll out additional training and more resources on the ground thanks to this new federal partnership.
"When we can leverage our federal partnerships, we're going to end up with better results," Acevedo said.
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