The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected us in many ways.
Loss of loved ones. Loss of jobs. Loss of so many things, large and small, that we never dreamed would go away or become severely restricted.
Another unfortunate and disturbing effect that Houston has experienced is an uptick in murders and homicides.
Houston’s rising murder rate
According to Art Acevedo, Houston Police Chief, the murder rate increased when the state issued the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order.
The increase in murders was not due to domestic violence, as some would think. Houston’s domestic violence numbers have actually gone down.
Authorities believe this spike in murders is due to gang and drug-related incidents, which are largely happening in Houston’s southeast side.
Police Chief Acevedo told ABC13 News that if these murder numbers continue going up, this year will be a 5-year high.
Why is this happening now? Why are gang and drug-related murders trending upwards during the pandemic?
Bail reform needed, says police chief
Some believe the rise in violent crimes is due to recent bail reform, which is releasing lower-level offenders in an effort to control overcrowding and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Their belief is that it’s the people being released from jail who are committing violent crimes and murders.
Andy Kahan, a victim’s rights advocate with Crime Stoppers, said that he gets frustrated having to let family members know that their loved one was murdered by a person recently released from jail.
Kahan went on to say:
“We do support misdemeanor bond reform, make no ifs, ands or buts about that. What we do not support is what we are seeing right now, which is felony offenders who are repeatedly being granted bonds to re-offend time and time again.”
Police Chief Acevedo agrees, saying::
“At the end of the day, when we see people going in one door and out the other door and recommitting violent crimes while they are out on bond, that is a problem we need to look at.”
Houston’s murder statistics
According to Acevedo, “In 2017, we had a significant reduction in murders, almost 11 percent. In 2018, we were flat. In 2019, we had a slight uptick, and in 2020 we have a five-year high if we continue this way.”
He attributes the reduction in violent crime in 2017 to the addition of a major assaults unit.
“If someone was shot in our city, unless you died, detectives didn’t roll, so we created a major assaults unit that had an impact. A lot of folks were being arrested on behalf of those investigative efforts before they hurt someone else.” Acevedo said.
But things have changed.
So far in 2020, murders are up 37 percent.
There have already been 178 homicides in 2020 (compared to 140 homicides in 2019).
A murder charge is a serious criminal offense with serious consequences.
For those who are facing a murder charge, the possible punishments you’re up against could be anything from a fine of up to $10,000 to a prison sentence up to 99 years.
If you or a loved one is facing a murder charge, you need a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney who has navigated these situations before and come out on top. You need an air-tight defense strategy. The team at The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp has you covered.