The community chosen for analysis are the citizens living in the Greater Houston Area, which is located in the Gulf Coast region in Texas and includes Houston, the Woodlands, and Sugar Land. Greater Houston is in the top five of the largest metropolitan areas of the United States, with the population reaching the 6,500,000 mark. It is important to mention that the metropolitan population is predominantly distributed around Houston, which is the fastest-growing area in the entire United States, which points to the necessity of developing a cohesive police intelligence framework for protecting the citizens of the metropolitan.
When designing a community and police intelligence plan, it is crucial to take into consideration the historical, social, and demographic patterns of the area, including cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors. As of 2011, Greater Houston has become a house to four of the wealthiest communities in Texas such as Hunters Creek Village, Bunker Hill Village, West University Place, and Piney Point Village. It is also worth mentioning that the employment growth rate is one of the highest among the largest metropolitans. Houston is the center of the area’s economic activity, with the rapidly expanding banking industry. Much of the success of the metro area is associated with the Houston Ship Channel, with the high fuel prices being beneficial for Houston. According to Kever (2012) from Houston Chronicles, the Houston area is one of the most ethnically diverse large metropolitan areas: the African American population makes up 16.8%, Latino population – 40%, Asian population 6.5%, and White population – 36.7%. Given this, the focus of the intelligence-led plan will be associated with the African American communities that experience high rates of violent crimes.
Key Crime Issues in the Area
Despite the mentioned benefits of the region, the crime statistics of the area show that there could be some improvements introduced into the community and the police of the Greater Houston Area. In the past year, the city of Houston reported 78,019 counts of theft, 20,529 counts of burglary, 14,299 counts of assault, 9,682 counts of robbery, and 7,303 counts of arrest (“Crime data in Houston,” 2016). The annual crime rate (per 1000 residents) is 54.16 (including both violent 9.69 and property 44.48 crimes) (“Houston, TX crime rates,” 2016). According to the statistics presented at the Neighborhood Scout website, the violent crime rate is much higher than the National Median (3.8), which presents a tremendous challenge for law enforcement. Moreover, the property crime rate is also much higher compared to the National Median (26), which points to the necessity of developing a police intelligence plan that will also address this problem, especially in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. In Houston, 198 crimes per one square mile occur, which is six times higher compared to the National Median of 32.85 (“Houston, TX crime rates,” 2016).
Implications of Crime for the Community
Before outlining a community & police intelligence plan for the Greater Houston Area, it is worth analyzing how the two key trends in the area’s criminal activity affect the members of the community. Property crimes often lead to the violation of individuals’ privacy and contribute to the fear of being burglarized again. However, financial costs are the most significant implications of property crime since they may lead to businesses closing, families being left without money, additional payments associated with insurance and legal matters. The financial aspect of a property crime is what the police and the community should focus to prevent this type of the offense from occurring in the future since it is important to make sure that the community prospers and is not burdened by financial problems associated with property crime. The socio-emotional impact of violent crime is considered much more significant compared to property crime. Among the victims of violent crime, the most widespread socio-emotional symptoms are anxiety (72%) and anger (70%) (Langton & Truman, 2014). Control and prevention of violent crimes in the Greater Houston Area should be a priority for the community and police intelligence plan targeted at improving the quality of life within African-American neighborhoods patrolled by the HPD.
Community & Police Intelligence Plan for the Greater Houston Area
Current Practices, Policies, and Procedures
The Houston Police Department (HPD) is the fifth-largest municipal police department in the United States. Each year, the Department actively investigates 150,000 crimes, responds to 1.2 million calls for service, and makes 400,000 traffic stops as procedures for crime management and prevention (McClelland, 2015). Moreover, the Houston Police Department was among the earliest adopters of the Community Policing approach, and thus has a fairly extensive history of community outreach. The department also welcomes innovation and uses the latest technologies as tools for crime control and prevention. Two years before the expanded popularity of body-worn cameras, the Houston Police Department has already been exploring their usage and deployed a hundred of units to their officers. Among the goals of the HPD is the enhancement of community safety, maintenance of public confidence, increasing productivity and professionalism, and increasing accountability to the community of the area. Core services include conducting investigations, responding to calls-for-service, arresting citizens suspected of crimes, coordinating homeland security, maintaining operations within municipal jails, and managing traffic enforcement (McClelland, 2015).
Strengths and Weaknesses
Among the strengths of the Houston Police Department, national and state recognitions are the most prominent. The Department received awards from International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Problem-Oriented Policing Conference, National Association of Police Organizations, and Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (McClelland, 2015). Furthermore, the Department has been effective in decreasing crime rates 13.9% between 2009 and 2014 despite the fact that the population increased. It is also important to mention that the HPD is known for its effectiveness in adapting to the changing needs of the community and adopting new technological solutions for improving performance and responsiveness. If to mention the weaknesses, the Department lacks cohesive expectations of supervisors, specifically in the investigative divisions. Moreover, HPD often performs useless performance evaluations that do not show any real results.
General Quality of Trust
The department is known for its community outreach, with the senior management of the department encouraging communicating with the public with the help of social media. Recently, the Department has been investing into improving race relations with the community (including African American neighborhoods), which resulted in the increase of population that rated race relations positively (McClelland, 2015). The satisfaction of the community with the performance of the police department is B+ and is ranked fourths in the police sentiment scores by city.
Enhancement of Law Enforcement Intelligence Forces
Intelligence-led policing is a tool that will help the Greater Houston Area law enforcement deal with the adverse implications of property and violent crimes that prevail in the community. In order to enhance the law enforcement intelligence forces within the community of the Greater Houston Area targeted at controlling and preventing violent assaults and property crime will require strategic targeting and prioritization. Despite the funding and the available personnel, the HPD should use its resources carefully and implement strategic targeting and prioritization for enhancing the Department’s efficiency. For example, to help fight property and violent crimes, the Houston Police Department should invest into examining criminal group characteristics, conducting target analyses, identification of intervention consequences, and prioritization of the main aspects of the prevention plan, such as:
- Organizing the community: Neighborhood Watch programs for strengthening relationships between African American citizens and providing a basis for solid property crime control and prevention;
- Incorporating technologies: local authorities, stakeholders, and investors should be involved in the intelligence-led plan to provide communities with latest technologies for monitoring neighborhoods since the area is considered predominantly affluent;
- Improving neighborhoods: those neighborhoods in the are that lack commodities for secure life should become the focus of the plan. The more advanced neighborhoods are, the lower is the chance of property crime.
- Collaborating with the community: similarly to property crime prevention, Neighborhood Watch should become an integral component of the intelligence-led plan to make sure that citizens stay alerted of suspicious activities and report them to the law enforcement agencies;
- Introduction of criminal informers: it was found that 81.1% of police officers indicated that intelligence-led policing depended on informers who provided relevant information concerning possible suspects of crime (Mabia, Iteyo, & Were, 2016);
- Investigation of linked series of crimes and incidents in the area;
- Application of preventative measures, including working with other departments from nearest areas.
To ensure that both the community and the police department comply with the formulated intelligence-plan, it is important to integrate the following into the planning:
- Technology and social media;
- Training and education;
- Officer wellness and safety (McClelland, 2015).
Building Community Trust
Building community trust is something that challenges the majority of communities because of the recent cases associated with police brutality targeted at the representatives of the African American population. In the environment of distrust, it is important to recognize that both the community and the police department has a common goal in mind – preventing violent and property crimes within the community. It will also be useful to engage the community and police officers in a conversation about their needs, demands, and perspectives on how the situation should be managed.
How the Plan May be Received by Law Enforcement and the Community
It is expected that the intelligence-led plan for managing violent assaults and property crimes will be received positively as long as both the African American community and the law enforcement are engaged in the conversation and cooperation. If the collection and retention of data about crime in the implemented criminal intelligence system is conducted correctly, and thus the intelligence-led plan takes place in an efficient manner, the community and the police forces of the Greater Houston Area will see the potential of the plan and will further implement it for addressing the challenge of violent assaults and property crime.
Crime data in Houston. (2016). Web.
Houston, TX crime rates. (2016). Web.
Kever, J. (2012). Houston region is now the most diverse in the U.S. Web.
Langton, L., & Truman, J. (2014). Socio-emotional impact of violent crime. Web.
Mabia, J., Iteyo, C., & Were, E. (2016). Effectiveness of intelligence-led policing in the management of domestic crimes in Kenya, a case of Kakamega County. Global Journal of Nursing and Forensic Studies, 1, 111-120.
McClelland, C. (2015). The Houston Police Department. Web.