Authorities Announce Initiative Targeting Houston Violent Offenders
HOUSTON – Houston area federal, state and local law enforcement agencies came together today to announce a collaborative initiative to proactively fight violent crime across the Greater Houston area. The Houston Law Enforcement Violent Crime Initiative brings together personnel from 10 area law enforcement agencies to not only augment investigative and prosecutorial efforts, but also to enhance collaborative training and community outreach efforts.
Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez made the announcement along with Tom Berg, First Assistant District Attorney of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department (HPD), Chief Deputy Edison Toquica of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI, Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Deputy Special Agent in Charge Sean McElroy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard Hunter of the U.S. Marshals Service, Commander Philip D. Steen of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Special Agent in Charge Joseph Arabit of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Administrator George Rhyne of Texas Anti-Gang.
Authorities have also strived to work together in the interests of justice. The announcement today included details about the initiative designed to enhance those partnerships and collaborate on the best avenues for targeting and ultimately prosecuting the most violent offenders in the community. Such specifics included information about intelligence integration, strategic support, working groups and resources, among others.
Aa part of the effort, additional training will also be provided among the agencies. For example, there is a violent crime training initiative which will provide numerous classes to educate agents and officers on the details of developing a violent crime case using the Hobbs Act, VICAR and RICO. The trainings are designed for front line investigators and mid-level managers of patrol and robbery units. The first of such trainings took place earlier this month and trained approximately 60 officers.
As part of the overall effort, several agencies will work together on initiatives designed to target violent offenders in Houston. One such operation involves HCSO and DPS and has already begun which has targeted high-crime areas along the 1960 corridor.
The ATF also provided information today regarding their National Integrated Ballistic Information Network which they use to identify shooters and connect specific guns to multiple crime scenes. The network is a system of 158 sites used by federal, state and local law enforcement and is the most advanced forensic tool available to law enforcement to identify criminals who repetitively use guns to commit crimes. They also have a joint initiative with HPD for intelligence-driven identification of violent offenders and gun-related crime. The goal is to not only “connect the dots” between multiple pieces of information relating to violent crime but also prepare strong cases for state and federal prosecution of these offenders.
HPD also has a Violent Offenders Squad (VOS) which investigates commercial business robberies, take-over style robberies, serial robberies juvenile-related and gang-related robberies in a more innovative and creative manner. It will also provide support to other investigators who are conducting follow-up on high-volume or highly-organized suspects committing serial cases. Further, HPD has a Criminal Apprehension Team (CAT) which will use proactive, reactive and analytical techniques to prevent and suppress serial criminal activity. CAT will identify and target such repeat offenders by proactively investigating their activities and apprehending them for crimes they commit.
The announcement today comes on the heels of news that Houston was recently named as one of 12 cities to join the Department of Justice’s newly-organized National Public Safety Partnership (PSP). As part of that effort, advisers and consultants will provide assistance in capacity building, data collection and analysis, proposed training and technical assistance and community outreach. The partnership provides a framework for enhancing federal support of state, local and tribal law enforcement officials and prosecutors as they aggressively investigate and pursue violent criminals, specifically those involved in gun crime, drug trafficking and gang violence.
The overall goal of the collaborative initiative is to reduce the amount of violent crime in the city and improve the quality of life for the citizens of Houston.