Houston’s violent crime rate drops in 2023

I have three things to say about this.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday touted his crime initiative as the reason behind a double-digit year-to-year reduction in violent crime in the first quarter of 2023, but experts say the figures mirror wider national trends and warned it is premature to predict whether the downtrend will continue.

In a report to City Council, Police Chief Troy Finner said Houston experienced a 12 percent decrease in violent crime during the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period last year. The data continue the downward trend highlighted in the Houston Police Department’s January report, which showed a decline in violent crimes between 2021 and 2022.

From January to March, murders saw the largest year-to-year decline at 28 percent, dropping from 152 to 109. Other categories of violent crime also experienced decreases: reported rape by 6 percent, robbery by 10 percent, aggravated assault by 12 percent, kidnapping by 19 percent and human trafficking by 23 percent, according to HPD’s latest figures.

Turner attributed the improvements to the introduction of One Safe Houston, a $44 million initiative launched in early 2022 to tackle crime when the city’s murder rate was on the rise. The plan included additional funds for crime prevention activities, overtime for police patrols, as well as programs to assist domestic violence survivors and individuals experiencing mental health crises.

“I think what’s important to note is that this trend started after we instituted One Safe Houston,” Turner said. “One Safe Houston is working. And it’s now been in effect for more than one year, and the numbers are reflective (of its success). But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Finner said improved coordination with Harris County’s criminal justice system in recent months and more aggressive efforts by prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office also have contributed to the reduced crime rates.

New Orleans-based criminologist Jeff Asher said Houston’s numbers appear to align with broader national trends. The co-founder of AH Datalytics, a consulting firm that analyzes criminal justice data, Asher said a majority of the nearly 70 U.S. cities his company tracks have reported decreases in violent crime so far in 2023.

“The national trend has been a decline in murders and gun violence, so seeing the same thing in Houston is both encouraging and not surprising,” Asher said. “The likelihood is that it’s not small local things that are driving it, but, rather, national changes. But what those changes are exactly is challenging to ascertain at this point.”

1. The national trends are absolutely the main drivers of the drop in crime, just as they were the main drivers of the increase of the past couple of years. There are things that local governments can do to affect their crime rate, both positively and negatively. There are definitely ways in which we could improve how we collect and update and disburse and react to the national data, to help cities and states be more proactive and less reactive. Finally allowing the CDC to collect gun violence data so as to study it as the epidemic it is would help. But whatever we’ve been doing here, the national trends almost certainly have outweighed it.

2. It’s also important to remember that while the citywide trend is positive, the commission of crime is not uniform throughout the city, and so some areas may not only have crime rates that are higher than other parts of the city, they may also still be experiencing increases, or at least not experiencing decreases. A couple of Council members made this point in the story. How we deploy our resources is one way that we can bend the curve further.

3. Remember all those breathless Republican ads from the 2022 campaign about the unrelenting crimeapocalypse in Houston and how only they could do something about it? Yeah. ‘Nuff said.

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10 Responses to Houston’s violent crime rate drops in 2023

  1. I agree it’s very encouraging to see the overall crime rate start trending downward (nationally and locally). That said, its important to put this in context. A huge surge in violent crime (2021), followed by a modest decrease (2022), still leaves our communities in pretty tough shape. I offer this opinion to anyone who cares: The majority of crime, including violent crime, is committed by recidivists. The Harris County Jail and our criminal court system are not being swamped by first-time offenders – it’s being swamped by career criminals (otherwise known as “thugs”). Normally, a thug would commit a crime, get caught, convicted, and sent to prison (thus ending his/her crime spree). When Covid-19 hit, local criminal justice systems stopped processing cases and just issued offenders low/PR bail bonds. With thugs just cycling in/out of jail on multiple bail bonds, our local crime rates naturally surged. Now that our local criminal justice systems are starting to work again, thugs are starting to flow to prison again. Fewer thugs on our streets = lower crime. I support low/PR bail bonds for misdemeanor and low-risk defendants, but let’s try to keep the career criminals in jail where they belong.

  2. Manny says:

    Greg, your opinion is based on what? A gut feeling?

  3. J says:

    He is just unhappy that the air is leaking out of the old law-n-order meme that all the big money GOPers and their sycophants were hoping to push, so he dreamed up a load of BS to explain the numbers. The GOPers will likely ignore the numbers, as they are fully immunized against facts.

  4. Manny, there is a lot of material out there documenting how COVID slowed criminal case processing, resulting in large case backlogs and a huge increase in the number of people out of jail on multiple bail bonds. The slow-down in felony case processing was so pronounced that the US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that altered court operations (delays in trials/sentencing) significantly reduced prison admissions (thus my comment about thugs staying on our streets and not flowing to prison). For the past several years, there has been a lot of news coverage about these offenders committing new crimes while out of jail on bail bonds. Anyway, Sheriff Gonzalez, Mayor Turner, DA Ogg, etc. have all expressed concern about it.

    I inserted a couple of relevant links below:




  5. J, the crime issue is real, not mere politics. By downplaying it, Democrats risk losing support in the areas most affected by crime (our urban communities). Let’s stop the GOP from using this issue against us (again) in 2024 by prioritizing getting these career criminals off our streets and then keeping them off our streets.

    I love how the Democrats rally to the aid of people who are down on their luck and need a helping hand. What I hate is how some criminals leverage our empathy to keep victimizing people. Frankly, no one needs or deserves our support more than someone who has been the victim of a violent crime. As Democrats, let’s make public safety one of OUR highest priorities. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also very good politics.

  6. Manny says:

    Greg, Fox should be spelled Faux.

    ABC is as relevant as my stating that most mass murderers are white males, or as Rs like you would state look at Chicago.

    Gov/content the same; prove that your conclusion is true.

    “The Harris County Jail and our criminal court system are not being swamped by first-time offenders – it’s being swamped by career criminals (otherwise known as “thugs”).” Can you prove that statement?


    Every “Thug” was a first-time criminal.

  7. Manny,

    DA Ogg provided some data on repeat offenders (see first link). State Senator Whitmire and Sheriff Gonzalez also attributed the rise in crime to repeat offenders cycling in/out of the jail on bond (see second link). Sen. Whitmire even specifically pointed out the huge drop in TDCJ admissions, noting that the convicts who would normally be in prison are instead roaming Houston streets out on bond. As far as the make-up of the Harris County Jail, almost all misdemeanor and low-risk defendants are currently released on PR bonds (part of the O’Donnell settlement) or on low bonds. According to the HCJ population dashboard, about 95% of the inmates now have some type of felony case. It has been my experience that most felony defendants who remain in jail also have criminal histories. I worked at the HCSO for 30 years and saw many of the same inmates come/go over the years.

    As you pointed out, every thug was once a first-time offender. Unfortunately, thugs don’t stop committing crime after their first arrest. One extensive BJS study on recidivism showed 83% of state prisoners released were eventually rearrested (third link below). That’s a pretty high rate of recidivism. Anyway, I truly believe the vast majority of people are law-abiding citizens, just trying to earn a living. Those are the ones I care about, not the career criminals/thugs.




  8. C.L. says:

    C’mon now…Greg may well have a point here. While I try to avoid the local news station’s screamings, there’s no shortage of coverage or reports when it comes to repeat offender’s committing more crimes after being arrested six (or more) times previously, and now involved in a third DWI incident or a fourth convenience store robbery or a fifth sexual assault or a sixth, etc., etc., etc., all because the legal system failed to lock up the perp to begin with. To somehow claim that’s NOT going on may be fake news itself.




  9. Thanks for the support C.L., but I think Manny and J may just be playing devil’s advocates. They know crime is a real problem, but politics makes this a very touchy subject. I don’t know how advocating for criminal justice reform and social justice have morphed into defending career criminals, but here we are.

    One other thing to consider – the clearance rate for most reported crimes is pretty low. That means, most of the time, these career criminals are getting away with it. The recidivist rates only reflect the times criminals get caught (again). Given the low clearance rates, I think it is reasonable to assume that many offenders with extensive criminal histories have actually committed many MORE crimes than what shows on their records.

  10. Manny says:

    C.L. n Greg, nice stories but they don’t prove your points.

    Why are you throwing paper over your shoulder?

    Answer, it keeps the elephants away.

    ? There are no elephants here.

    Answer, see it works.

    Not saying you are wrong, but they do not prove your points on crime.

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