HOUSTON — Does it seem like there have been more homicides in the city of Houston so far this year? Well, there have been, according to the Houston Police Department.
HPD said there had been 199 homicides within the city limits through Wednesday, June 10, 2021. Through the same time period in 2020, there had been 148 homicides. That's a 35% increase.
Crime Stoppers of Houston has been studying the issue and claims a major factor in the increase is a result of felony bond reform that allows people charged with felonies back on the streets on personal recognizance bonds. They don't have to pay any money as they await their trial. Some say that when they get back out on the streets, they're committing more crimes, including murders.
"Certain people really do need to be held pretrial, and again, guaranteed a speedy and fair trial," Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious said.
According to Crime Stoppers of Houston, a study showed that in the last 18 months, 119 murder suspects in the city were facing multiple felony charges and were out on PR bonds. There are other factors. Felony suspects were released to the streets due to Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To say that it's purely COVID-related is unfair. To say that it's purely gun-related is unfair. And to completely ignore the effect of felony bond reform is unfair," Mankarious said.
So, what's a solution to this problem? Getting the court systems running efficiently and bond reform could help. Law enforcement officials and victim rights advocates support Senate Bill 21, which is designed to tighten PR and no-cost bonds and also requires a review of a defendant's criminal status before a bond is decided, among other things.
SB 21 died when Democratic lawmakers left the Senate floor during the state's Legislative session, but it's expected to be picked back up during a special session.