Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling for the expansion of the state’s anti-gang task force as details emerge in the deadly shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.
“There are too many gangs in Houston,” Abbott tweeted on Tuesday, saying an expansion of the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force would “clean our streets of this trash and restore safety.”
#JazmineBarnes— the innocent 7 year old girl gunned down in Houston appears to have been killed by a gang member. There are too many gangs in Houston. We must expand the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force in Houston to clean our streets of this trash and restore safety. #txlege https://t.co/WTqLHCmlps
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 9, 2019
Investigators have arrested Larry D. Woodruffe, 24, and Eric Black Jr., 20, alleged gang members, in connection with the death of Jazmine Barnes. The shooting garnered national attention as police searched for suspects.
Multiple Houston-area children have died due to gang violence in recent years. In 2017, state police said Harris County had the highest concentration of gang activity in the state.
"We see an increase in these gang members not just in Houston, but across the entire state of Texas,” Abbott said at a press conference Wednesday. He said opening two previously proposed anti-gang centers in Waco and Tyler would help reduce gang activity across the state.
In a 2018 report, the governor’s office said Houston’s anti-gang center led to more than 1,487 arrests by the Department of Public Safety, including 247 “violent or high-threat offenders.”
Houston leaders, however, have resisted Abbott’s spotlight on gang activity in the city.
“Violent deaths like these are tragic no matter where they take place. This one did not take place in the city of Houston,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted.
Turner also urged state lawmakers to increase school funding and not to future cap city revenues as a potential solution.
More: There are too many gangs across the whole state; more school funding and economic opportunities would help reduce their numbers; but further capping cities' revenue would prevent them from hiring more police. @GregAbbott_TX #JusticeforJazmine
— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) January 9, 2019
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also commented on the Governor’s remarks. He underscored Barnes’ death is tragic, but said that “most of the folks that are being impacted by gangs are really other gang members.”
Acevedo also noted that Houston’s gang activity is “greater than other cities and lesser than other cities.” According to the HPD chief, there are about 20,000 gang members in the Houston region, while when he worked in Los Angeles years ago there were 50,000 gang members.
In 2017 the Texas Department of Public Safety identified Harris County as the leading county for identified and suspected gang activity in the state.