Spike in Chinatown Robberies drives Citizens to Protest

protest-robberies-oct-2016

A dozen leaders of an assortment of Chinese community organizations rallied in protest on Saturday near the Galleria to bring attention to a string of violent crimes that appear to target Asians. One of the most recent and high profile incidents was the robbery of attorney Jessica Chen as she was leaving her southwest Houston office, in the heart of Chinatown. With Chen on the ground, two male suspects succeeded in stealing her purse, phone, and BMW SUV. She was shaken but not seriously hurt, and the vehicle was recovered in Ft. Bend county the next day.

From Houston Chronicle: Asian community joins arms against crime. Residents of Chinatown alarmed by recent rash of robberies. The following quote explains it all:

“I work in Chinatown in Houston, and I’ve seen three of my friends who got robbed,” said Hanssen Zinn, 32 who works at a travel agency in southwest Houston. “We don’t feel safe at all.”

While there is much to consider, keep in mind that both the Southwest and International management districts have collected literally millions of dollars for public safety over the last decade. Recently the Southwest (Sharpstown) District awarded another “low crime” banner to an apartment operator. But according to this coalition of Asian citizens, robberies are out of hand.

In fact, the most recent crime analysis from HPD provided to the Southwest District shows violent crime skyrocketing when comparing the one-year periods ending in July 2015 versus 2016.

Murders are up 93% from 13 to 25, Rape up 22% from 72 to 88, and Robberies up 13% from 846 to 954. We’ve had two more robberies EVERY WEEK over the last year than in 2015.

The administration just complained they don’t have the funds to buy new police cars, much less address a skyrocketing murder and violent crime rate.

“Wheels fall off rounding sharp turns. Engines overheat. Dead batteries strand officers until they can get a tow back to the police station. Tires blow out with alarming frequency on cars that have been driven too long and too far.

All in all, Houston police officers are stuck behind the wheel of a decaying vehicle fleet that in many cases has outlived its recommended lifespan.

Nearly one in four police vehicles – marked and unmarked – has exceeded the city’s recommended mileage limit, which is 100,000 for marked cars and 120,000 for unmarked.”

se-substation-hpd-from-hou-chon-2(Photo: Houston Chronicle)

This places council members like District F’s Steve Le in a tough spot, where he can only direct his limited district service funds ($180,000) for police overtime, and HPD does all it can to get results.

The management district will hold another “March on Crime” luncheon and pass out plaques, patting each other on the back like they’ve done for years. It will however, have no measurable impact, just maintain the illusion that they’re doing something.

Capt. Paul Follis, the commander for HPD’s west side division is on the right track when he describes the population density. “In that small area that is Chinatown, which is less than a three-square-mile area, there are dozens of apartment complexes over there. People are literally living on top of each other.”

Indeed, as has been widely reported, the larger District J corridor has three times the people per square mile (or census block) than the rest of Houston. Check the staffing levels for HPD though and you’ll see a consistent amount of patrol officers over the Midwest, Westside, Beechnut, and S. Gessner Divisions.

There is little variation among any police patrol division actually.  It would appear we’re asking Follis and HPD to handle a workload three times as heavy, but with the same level of resources as River Oaks or Kingwood. The staffing evaluation doesn’t work out exactly as an apple to apple comparison, but the broad conclusion is pretty solid I think.

The bottom line here is that these folks do not have a sense that there is adequate public safety in the community. For Chinatown, southwest Houston, Gulfton, and Westwood, I think they are correct.

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