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Program Would Reward Police Officers For Living In The City Of Houston

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the incentive this week.

Under the program, officers who choose to buy a house in certain Houston ZIP codes or patrol districts would be paid a total of $25,000 extra over three years.

“I love it!” said self-proclaimed “hood” resident Pat Hunter when I asked her about the incentive. I met her in a strip mall in the South Union area, in one of the ZIP codes the incentive covers.

“Because you can help people much better when you get to know them,” she said. “And sometimes you have to see the circumstances, the environment and the cause to be able to work with the problem. And I think it would make them more sensitive and more understanding,” she said.

The Houston Police Department and the police officers’ union drafted the proposal, and the Houston City Council discussed it last week.

Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer, said many officers may patrol high-need areas in Houston, but at the end of the day they go back to their homes in the suburbs.

“Perhaps, it would just help police-community relationships if they were part of the community,” Gonzalez said. “If they were a neighbor to someone, where if they choose to go to a civic club, there’s a civic club in the neighborhood. They shop in the local grocery stores, support local businesses.”

Only about 20 percent of the more than 5,000 HPD officers live inside the city limits. The declared goal is to motivate 200 of those who live in the suburbs to move into Houston over the next four years.

Douglas Griffith with the Houston Police Officers Union said he welcomes the incentive. But he’s skeptical about its success in terms of improving community relations.

Griffith doesn’t think officers will choose to move into the areas they patrol.

“At some point you’re going to take police action and put people in jail, which doesn’t necessarily endear you to them,” he said. “So, how does that work out when you live in that same neighborhood?”

Hunter, the lady from the strip mall, suggests officers at least get to know the community in their patrol district.

“Maybe just a certain hour of the day that they’re required to engage, get to know their beat,” she said. “They don’t have to sleep there.”

The Houston City Council is set to vote on the residency incentive on Wednesday.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club. Florian is a native of Germany. His studies...

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