Houston Gets Federal Funding for Police Task Force

Houston is getting $20 million from the federal government for public safety. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports the funds will be used primarily for a police task force that's cracking down on crime in hot spot neighborhoods

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Houston's homicide rate increased 23 percent last year, with most of that happening after Hurricane Katrina. Houston has spent money on police over time. The police department also established the Neighborhood Enforcement Team Taskforce to crack down on crime hot spots. Officials say that's led to two-thousand arrests. U-S Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says the federal government has not been fair to Texas.

"Here is the overload we've had on the criminal justice system and this not something that our local tax payers should bare."

The money is coming from unspent Department of Justice funds. Houston Mayor Bill White says the money will also go to recruit more police officers. White is looking for additional help from the government besides funds.

"And we discussed other ways the Department of Justice can help on some of our projects including how we might get some of those people convicted of crime to be ... overburden our prisons."

The newest funds are not the only ones promised to Houston.

"FEMA had agreed that they would pay for incremental extra costs of law enforcement through March 31 ... but after that point there was no FEMA reimbursement."

White noted that the city has yet to see any of the FEMA funds for police. The new monies were found only after Texas was initially left off of a Katrina appropriations bill and Texas lawmakers scrambled. White went to Washington in an effort to secure funds.

"There is a misunderstanding of the whole continuing impact of the devastation of an American city ... rebuild lives, not just places... we have almost entire zip codes that have been transplanted to the Houston area."

Texas lawmakers say they're continuing to work to secure more funds for Houston and Texas ... not only for Katrina relief efforts, but for Rita as well. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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