HOUSTON — Law enforcement agencies across the Houston area spent the weekend responding to shootings and other acts of violence. It's the latest sign showing an alarming rise in the homicide rate.
A look at the numbers shows homicides are up in Houston. As of 7 a.m. Monday morning, the Houston Police Department said 173 people in the city died at the hands of another.
- 2021: Jan. 1 to May 16 - 160 homicides
- 2020: Jan. 1 to May 16 - 125 homicides
The Harris County Sheriff's Office said there have been 46 homicides in the county so far this year.
- 2021: Jan. 1 to May 15 - 42 homicides
- 2020: Jan. 1 to May 15 - 43 homicides
- 2019: Jan. 1 to May 15 - 23 homicides
Local FBI officials said that as time passes, criminals adjust.
"Criminal activity has changed or evolved over time. Criminals adjust to various types of crimes. They learn from the mistakes they’ve made. And now they’re going forward with new tactics," FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge James Smith said.
The new tactics are putting more innocent people in danger -- from armored trucks being targeted in busy shopping centers to gang shootings at the Galleria to an air conditioning repairman being gunned down while working a job -- law enforcement agencies have their hands full trying to keep the community safe.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said it's not just happening in Houston.
"It’s unbelievable. But again, I don’t want to say the sky is falling in Houston," Finner said a couple of months ago when talking about the spike in crime. "I think every major city is experiencing increased numbers of violence."
The community is at risk and family members of recent victims are pleading for help.
Ashanti Grant, 9, was shot during a road rage incident earlier this year. Her grandmother and others are spearheading a march against crime.
"They just shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. It’s like the wild, wild west. That has got to stop," Patricia Williams said. "Everybody needs to understand that it could have been their child."
Ashanti survived the shooting, but other families were not as fortunate. Paul Castro's son, David, was killed in a road rage shooting after an Astros game in 2021.
"Don’t just complain. Don’t just tweet. Don’t just post on your Facebook. You know, make the calls to your city government leaders. This is our community. This is our city and we have to take it back," Castro said.
Local authorities are working with federal agents to beef up charges so violent offenders stay behind bars. Recently, Harris County set a 10% minimum for certain felony bonds.
Also, more officers are graduating from the police academy.
"We're going to utilize every tool ... surveillance cameras, added police, overtime," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
The city of Houston and Harris County continue to funnel money into public safety, but with officers being ambushed and killed on the job, it's becoming more difficult to control.
"In 32 years, I haven’t really seen it this bad," Finner said.