HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is proposing a $50 million initiative that ties infrastructure to crime and gun violence.
The judge said the areas with high crime rates are the ones most neglected by infrastructure investors. She says the “Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhood” Initiative would prevent crime by addressing long-awaited community concerns, like abandoned buildings and lack of streetlights in residential areas.
“Too often, blighted buildings, dark streets, unsafe and abandoned structures serve as incubators of crime and of gun violence,” says Hidalgo. “Places where families don't even have the benefit of a sidewalk to get to school, even some things like air conditioning or trees to find comfort in the oppressive heat of summer. Those are the places where the seeds of criminal activity often find refuge."
Judge Hidalgo says the $50 million will not be taken from other county budgets. Instead, it’ll come from sources like the county’s Capital Investment Program. She cites one of the studies that the proposal is based on, saying the project could improve public safety and save money in the future.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia supports the initiative’s benefit for Harris County residents and law enforcement. The county's budget for law enforcement agencies has increased by 13% since 2019. Their total funding for fiscal year 2022 is closed to $1 billion. Commissioner Garcia says better infrastructure could reduce crime in neighborhoods and make it easier for police to do their jobs.
“In Precinct 2, this initiative is referred to as 'Revive to Thrive,' making sure that we're revitalizing communities - not gentrifying them - but revitalizing them so that they can thrive yet once again," says Garcia. "Making sure that communities can be proud of where they live, feeling safe where they live."
If approved, Judge Hidalgo expects the initiative to start within the next couple of months. She says county leaders would have to work with experts and law enforcement to determine which neighborhoods to prioritize and how much funding those communities need.