The Houston Chronicle reports on a high-profile press conference that Ben Hall hosted yesterday, outlining his approach to an alleged crime problem ransacking the City and criticizing Mayor Parker for allegedly doing nothing about it. As the astute will recall, there was a murder that took place at a local Denny’s not long ago. Perhaps fittingly, perhaps insensitively, Hall held a press conference about crime in this location.
There, Hall made a point that, while crime on average in this City has fallen, it is still far too high. Particularly, he lambasted the Mayor for seeing still record high burglaries on his watch. Hall gave a detailed speech and released a press release (I’m finally getting them that outlined his five-point plan on reducing crime within the city:
Increasing collaboration between all local law enforcement authorities and upgrading radio communications;
Increasing crime deterrence initiatives in neighborhoods with the use of camera technology;
Stabilizing pension challenges for law enforcement and first-responders and increasing the number of officers;
Having non-violent criminals pay off their sentences by performing community services; and
Expanding job creation programs for first-time offenders to prevent re-imprisonment.
The points, however, disappoint upon closer examination. Point 1 is painfully broad, and reeks of the same things Parker was saying four years ago. Point 2 is also somewhat broad, considering how many cameras already exist, particular in the downtown region. Hall, for his part, expanded further upon a request-for-comment from the Chronicle. As Morris writes about this point of Hall’s plan:
Hall said his surveillance camera proposal is not intended to have the city purchase a slew of cameras or hire armies of police to monitor them. The idea, he said, is to give neighborhoods clearance to install them on city rights of way or, in some cases, help with the purchase. He acknowledged many criminals are not deterred by surveillance in stores, but said conspicuous cameras tracking license plates coming in and out of crime-ridden neighborhoods could be effective.
Point 3 has nothing to do with crime, and Point 4 has nothing to do with the City of Houston (violent criminals violate State, not City rules). Point 5 is a good point, and Off the Kuff noted it was somewhat similar to a proposal by C.O. Bradford and Larry Green earlier this year.
As the Chronicle noted in their article, Houston DOES have the highest burglaries of any city, but that is not a per capita statistic. Simply examining the number of burglaries per resident, Houston drops to “7th or 8th.”
Finally, the Chronicle interviews a Criminal Justice Professor at the University of Houston, who called out both Hall & Parker. Professor Snell discussed the complexity and unreliability of statistics, and how candidates grandstanding to positions based on said statistics are doing nothing more than blatant “posturing.”
“To take advantage of a decline in crime politically or to try to use an increase in crime politically, I think, indicates a lack of knowledge about how the statistics are developed. There’s just many, many factors that can impact the rise or decline in crime.”
For what it is worth, I thoroughly applaud Hall for bringing light to this issue. He is halfway there, now he needs to provide some real specifics. Unfortunately, he did not do this with his “plan.” Hall should spend some time in the close future trying to figure out a way to distinguish his specific proposals from things the Mayor did or said.
My home neighborhood has been plagued by some particularly vicious burglaries recently. There is nothing like seeing people you are close with deal with the traumatizing experience of a home invasion to support gun ownership and castle doctrines. I trust that there are many more neighborhoods dealing with similar problems. Hall may very easily strike a nerve on this issue, and it is his issue to exploit since he is not the incumbent.
However, the people in my home neighborhood will not consider voting for Hall because of this issue, no matter how aggravated they may be, until he offers specific and distinct solutions to the issue.
I am under the impression that the Mayor is not responsible for the crime troubles, and not even because I have done any significant research on the topic. Rather, I have come to this conclusion because Hall has not offered a good alternative plan. That tells me he could not do anything the Mayor is not already doing on this issue.
Perhaps Hall’s campaign will prove me wrong, I certainly invite them to do so.