Since becoming sheriff in 2009, Adrian Garcia's goal was to eliminate the jailing of inmates in cells outside Harris County, which was costing some $20 million a year.
"We no longer have to send inmates to Louisiana, as was the practice when I got here, nor do we have have any more inmates in other county jails in the state of Texas."
That was a fairly easy accomplishment, but with the money saved, expect the Sheriff to make a formal request for more guards before Harris County Commissioners. Meanwhile, Garcia and his staff set off to finally put to use, the processing center located in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center.
"Our staff worked extremely hard to put that facility back on line for its intended purposes, and we have found that it has supported our operations, and it's also helped us to save some money by removing certain logjams within the process."
Sheriff Garcia wants to ensure that his department keeps up with the latest tools, like the new phone app called iWatch Harris County.
"This is where folks can download to their Droid, their Blackberry, I-phone, the "I watch Harris County" app, and they can text to us or digital pictures or video, about suspicious activity or crime activity that's occurring in their communities. They can remain anonymous. We have a very active partnership with Houston Crime Stoppers. There's a link to Houston Crime Stoppers they can go to directly."
At last count, more than 4,000 citizens have downloaded that app. Things have certainly changed since 1981, when Garcia was a Houston Police officer and the number of murders topped 700, to 198 murders last year. He says
he wanted to make sure that with today's economic challenges he didn't want to visit the crime concerns a generation ago.
"That's why working to leverage technology approaches, and utilization of our data, as a way to keep crime in check. There has been a new attitude, a new approach. But obviously this is a trend that's occurring across the country, so I'd like to think we are doing things extremely well here, and we'll continue to stay focused to keep the citizens as safe as we can."
Garcia says last year's accomplishments put wind in the sails of the department looking into 2012.