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Abbott Calls For Expansion Of Texas Anti-Gang Task Force

The Governor’s call comes as two men have been charged in the deadly shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes.

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.”

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.

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.

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Davis Land

Davis Land

General Assignments Reporter

Davis Land is a general assignment reporter for Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media/Transom.org in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a...

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