More Officers for HPD

The Houston Police Department was been working with a smaller staff and today the city announced a plan to boost the force. It includes more academy classes and more overtime programs. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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Many crime stats are down in the city and Houston Mayor Bill White wants to keep that trend going.

"Houston is a safe city. It's safer than it was a year ago, crime rates are dropping, violent crime rate per 100,000 is down about 5 percent this year compared to last. Homicide rates are down even farther, but we want to make this city safer still."

The additional academy classes and overtime programs are in addition to increases already included in the budget. HPD's budget was increased by $26 million over last fiscal year.

"Now people want to know, well, Chief what are you going to do with that money. Well, of course it will give us the opportunity to increase general police services both on patrol as well as on investigations, special operations. Additionally, we will focus on more specifically vice. We've been having challenges on the west side of town, we're going to put additional resources there."

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt:

"I will set a goal for the Houston Police Department to drive down violent crime past 10 percent. We should be able to do that in double figures within the next two to three years based upon the resources that are going to be added here."

But Hurtt says most of the problems the department is seeing now are in burglary and theft. The police department has been operating with about 4,800 officers. Houston Police Officers Union President Hans Marticic would like to see that number grow to 5,500. He says the initatives outlined will also help officer safety. The department is looking to return to two-person patrol units where possible.

"It was great to hear today, we're talking about two man units and additional patrols out there which is obviously a concern for us. Occasionally we are out there, and you know, I have been a police officer for 27 years, all but six months of that has been on the street, and it hasn't been unusual for us to not have adequate back up so this is great news."

Mayor White also says the additional resources are possible without a property tax rate increase. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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