Governor Abbott announced Wednesday that he is deploying resources from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to Houston. This move is to support the Houston Police Department as it deals with a sharp rise in road rage shootings and other violent crimes.
The announcement from the governor’s office followed a news conference held the previous day by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. Acevedo spoke about the new task force put in place to help combat road rage incidents on Houston’s streets and roadways. The situation has gotten out of control.
On Tuesday, Acevedo said that, according to preliminary crime analysis, there have been about 200 incidents in the first 10 months of this year that have ended with someone being shot on our roadways compared to 150 during the same period a year ago.
Six of the road rage incidents have led to murder, Acevedo said, including the case involving HPD Sgt. Sean Rios.
Rios was shot to death in November during a gun battle in north Houston.
“Anyone who thinks they can go out there and engage in road rage and commit aggravated assault and thinks they’re going to get away with it would be wrong,” Acevedo said.
For such a big city (4th in the nation), Houston isn’t known as a violent city. It’s not a perfect utopia but it is common for both residents and visitors to note that for its size and large population, Houston doesn’t seem to have problems with violence as many other cities do. So, when there is a rise in crime, especially violent crime, it’s noticeable. Houston does have a problem with gang-related violence due to the fact that so many gangs are found in Houston because of the city’s proximity to the Mexican border, but this is a different kind of problem.
The press release from Governor Abbott’s office:
Governor Greg Abbott today directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to provide support to the Houston Police Department (HPD) in their efforts to address an alarming rise in road rage-related shootings in the city of Houston. DPS will deploy marked and unmarked patrol units to patrol hot spots identified by HPD.
Furthermore, Governor Abbott directed DPS to deploy multiple resources to support HPD and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crime Prevention operations, including DPS Special Agents and State Troopers to conduct gang and drug investigative operations and a team of DPS Intelligence Analysts. DPS will also provide one helicopter and two patrol planes to provide direct air support.
“The State of Texas is working closely with HPD to provide the necessary resources that will effectively combat violence in the Houston community,” said Governor Abbott. “The support that DPS is providing to HPD will protect Houstonians and crack down on illegal and violent activity, including road rage-related shootings, within the city.”
Some of the “necessary resources” that the state is providing include one helicopter and two patrol planes to provide direct air support. In the last two weeks, two road rage shootings occurred just days apart. It will be quite a task to monitor Houston’s traffic on the toll roads and freeways. Everyone drives – there is little use of public transportation in most parts of the city. Houston is notorious for its traffic problems, I say this as a resident of Houston. Road rage shootings being added on top of the usual frustrations in driving is an unnerving thought. Yet, here we are.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez offers some basic suggestions, like keeping your cool when driving, while noting this has been a rough year on everyone. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, 80% of polled drivers express serious aggression, anger or road rage at least once a year. Everyone needs to take a breath and, you know, not pull out your gun.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez called on the community to slow down, calm down and stop with the aggressive driving.
“This year has been very difficult, and there’s been a lot of loss both in our community and in our nation, and we shouldn’t be compounding that suffering with unnecessary carnage on our roadways,” Gonzalez said.
From what I’ve been reading about this, it looks like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is missing in action on this subject. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg attended the announcement and reminded people that road ragers could lose their vehicles.
“Just the fact that you’re using a gun, putting people’s lives at risk allows the district attorney’s office, under law, to subject a vehicle to forfeiture as a criminal instrument,” Ogg said. “I’m pledging our office will do this where the evidence supports it and where the officers have gathered enough information from you the public, which is often misreported as a minor traffic crime, but is often something far more deadly.”
Ogg also pleaded for the public to report reckless driving, anyone using guns on the roads, and freeway and road stunts and takeovers.
The advice from AAA is common sense – don’t respond, avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle, and contact 911 if needed. None of that is easy to do when you’re dealing with a crazy or unsafe driver, but just don’t engage with the other driver. The aggravation isn’t worth being shot over.
Violent crime, in general in Houston, is up. It’s due to a perfect storm, according to the police chief. He points his finger to the broken bond system as the biggest problem. Gang crime and drug-related murders account for the increase, as well as the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. The push to release criminals, even violent criminals, as a part of bond reform has worsened the crime rates in cities.
“If you would tell me I’d be in a major U.S. city and violent criminals would get out in Texas on $100 bonds, I would have said you’re crazy,” Acevedo said.
Releasing suspects in violent criminals on bond also makes it tougher to solve the crimes because witnesses are scared to cooperate.
“If you witness a murder, and you’re seeing time and again that the murderer is going in one door and, a day or two later, they’re back out, our level of cooperation is quickly going down,” Acevedo said. “People are afraid, and they should be afraid.”
On a brighter note, there is a 20% decrease in rape and a 5% decrease in robberies. It’s been a tough year and even drivers on roadways are feeling the stress.