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The City of Houston is considering expanding its civility ordinance into Riverside Terrace

The community on the city’s south side has seen an increase in crime and an influx of homeless people who set up camps in alleyways. 

riverside terrace
Riverside Civic Association Facebook
Riverside Terrace neighborhood

A Third Ward community is trying to find ways to reduce crime that's become more of a problem over the past year. Residents said they're hoping a Houston city ordinance will help with the effort.

The Riverside Terrace community gathered almost 400 signatures for its petition, a procedural first step, for the city to consider a civility ordinance in its neighborhood. The community on the city's south side has seen an increase in crime and an influx of homeless people who set up camps in alleyways.

The ordinance enacted in 2002, would prohibit lying, sitting, and even setting up personal possession on sidewalks in the area between 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Anyone in violation of the ordinance could be ticketed.

Houston City Council voted at its February 7 meeting to set a public hearing date for Wednesday, February 21 at 9 a.m. to discuss the proposed ordinance.

Sabrina Dean-Bass, who serves on the Riverside Civic Association Board said she started researching to find a possible solution for the issue when she came across an article about another neighborhood that had a civility ordinance.

"We met to talk about this and we decided, you know, we can only see really positive things coming from this if we could implement it,” she said. “So we decided to move forward."

Other communities in Houston have sought after the ordinance as a way to get a handle on crime like the Near Northside and the South Post Oak/West Bellfort. According to the city, the law is currently in effect in the Central Business District, Midtown, Old Sixth Ward, Avondale, Hyde Park, East Downtown Management District, and the Historic Near Northside.

Dean-Bass said the feedback has been positive about the proposed ordinance. She said HPD and other communities she spoke with that have the law have said it helps reduce crime.

The civic association has monthly meetings according to Dean-Bass and the issue has been brought up before to the Houston Police Commander that's at most of the meetings. She said without the ordinance, there's not much that can be done, except for if the police witness the activity themselves.

"Unless you have a civility ordinance, someone can have their personal belongings, hang out on the sidewalk all day long," she said. "We were seeing drug deals happen right in front of us."

As far as the homeless population, she said it could be a result of the city decommissioning a lot of homeless encampments.

“I don’t know if it happened once they cleaned up some of downtown and kind of cleared the homeless out of the areas from the bridge, they kind of migrated over to our neighborhood.”

Dean-Bass said the community members take pride and love in their neighborhood and it’s oftentimes overlooked.

"Sometimes we really have to fight for the things and the attention we think that the neighborhood deserves," she said. "This is a simple way, a simple thing we can do, doesn’t cost us any money to put in place and hopefully deter some of what we’re seeing."

Dean-Bass said she expects a big turnout from local residents at the public hearing.