In response to the story: “HPD maps out spikes in criminal activity”; Anita Hassan, Houston Chronicle, May 25th 2012.
Once a story takes hold it’s awfully hard to change it and that’s exactly what’s happened to Sharpstown, a neighborhood supposedly entangled in a drama of graffiti, gangs, and a surge of violent crime. It does make compelling news copy, but it could have and perhaps should have been written about the Galleria, not Sharpstown.
The Houston Chronicle recently published Anita Hassan’s report about a spike in crime across the city, all based on data from the comparable 90 day period last year. While I doubt the value of comparing two such short periods, the inclusion of Sharpstown in the story, as the identifying entity in HPD’s District 18, falsely leads readers to believe that the area is a gang infested, graffiti marked neighborhood, which leads the city in rising murder and robbery rates.
I’ll be blunt; it’s just not true.
This continuing false narrative perpetuates a negative perception of Sharpstown, despite the hard work of those in our community and in the face of millions of dollars in redevelopment and investment. Let’s set the record straight, we’re moving forward, whether that story sells papers or not.
Hassan wrote, “HPD’s District 18, (emphasis added) which includes the Sharpstown area, saw a 26 percent increase in violent crime during the first three months of the year compared to last year”.
Well that may be true, but readers should know that District 18 also includes the city’s shining jewel, the Galleria (Patrol Beats 18F20 & 30), the Westheimer Corridor (Beat 18F40), as well as our much maligned Sharpstown (Beats 18F60 & 50). The new division stretches from I-10 and the Loop to about the SW Freeway and Bissonnet and encompasses some of the most affluent retail and residential sections of Houston. But if crime is up, it must be in Sharpstown, right? Wrong!
I thought it would be interesting to pull back the curtain and look at the same District 18 data, but this time by patrol beat, segmenting it into the Galleria and Sharpstown areas. We discover that crime is up in both areas, as it is city wide, but looking closer we find:
- Violent crimes are up 16% over last year in Sharpstown, while the Galleria area jumped a whopping 44%.
- Robberies were up 43% in Sharpstown, (which includes PlazAmericas, the former Sharpstown Mall), while Galleria area robberies jumped 100%. Yes, they doubled.
- Both areas experienced a 7% decline in aggravated assaults.
- Property crimes were up 4% in Sharpstown, but jumped 16% in the Galleria.
In fact, there were almost 1,400 property crimes (burglary, theft, and auto thefts) in the Galleria area from January to March this year, which is more than double the amount in Sharpstown. As you can see, the details tell a much different story. To be clear, the homicide and sexual assault rate is negligible both in quantity and the change from last year and there was virtually no difference in either area.
One could have simply struck the name Sharpstown and inserted Galleria, acquired a few quotes from the Galleria Management District, and had the same story. How about the headline “Galleria Area Robberies Double Last Year’s Rate”? First, it would be true, and second it would more accurately reflect the location of these so-called crime hotspots.
Instead, the reporter chose to fall back on the same broken story line that may meet the view held by many non-residents, but one that is false, misleading, and harmful to renewal efforts. This negative perception may hinder, but will not stop our momentum. Residents, investors, home buyers, and business executives know that there is tremendous economic opportunity in the Sharpstown area, and that there are plenty of people working hard to make things happen. We won’t be afraid to set the record straight.