HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The families of murder victims joined law enforcement leaders and Crime Stoppers of Houston Wednesday morning to release brand new violent crime data in Houston and to demand action to get it under control.
"You can't fix a problem if you don't admit you have one," said State Sen. John Whitmire. "We have one, Houston."
Whitmire joined leaders at the press conference to call attention to the violent crime plaguing Houston. He said criminals are getting too many chances to re-offend in Harris County.
"The 117,000 inmates, that's 30,000 difference from two years ago, where do you think they are? They're on the streets of Houston," said Whitmire. "Repeat offenders."
Whitmire gave Jeremiah Jones as a recent example. Jones is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's 9-year-old daughter. Jones was out on five felony bonds at the time of the murder earlier this month.
"Criminals out there feel emboldened because they know they'll get out, they know they won't be held accountable," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Crime Stoppers' new research center compiled a mid-year report that breaks down violent crime in the region. It found from January to June of this year, homicides are down 5% compared to last year, but remain up overall since 2020.
Sexual assaults and aggravated assaults are also down slightly through the first part of this year compared to last but are also still up from where they were in 2020.
Gun violence has taken an especially hard toll on Texas children.
"This year we've seen a 333% increase in the number of Texas children killed due to gun violence over the same reporting period last year," said Sydney Zuiker with Crime Stoppers of Houston. "Even if we eliminated the children lost in the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, the number of children killed in Texas is double what it was last year."
Crime Stoppers plans to release an interactive dashboard with more data by the fall, but in the meantime, law enforcement leaders and victims' families are calling on the courts to do more to clear the backlog of cases compounded first by Hurricane Harvey and then a global pandemic.
"If we don't deal with the backlog, we will not be safe," said Whitmire.