Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo pledges funding for courts to ease crimewave
HOUSTON - In a violence weary city, enduring a 40%, year-over-year increase in homicides the "crime-fighting" announcement by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was meant to assure the public.
"It is an emergency initiative to break a vicious circle of crime and incarceration and make a meaningful dent in our crime rate," said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo is referencing a proposed $17 million appropriation to hire so-called associate judges and expand jury operations at NRG.
According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office the current criminal case backlog stands at 140,000 with more than half involving felony offenses.
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Public Safety Advocate Crime Stoppers of Houston has blamed much of the most violent mayhem on activist judges releasing repeat, violent offenders on bond.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Adrian Garcia appeared to echo that concern.
"Just to see that person walk out of jail almost as fast as the officers are finishing their paperwork, that cannot continue to be the case. We have to understand that and so we are expecting the Judges to be part of an effective system as well," said Garcia.
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What Democrats on Commissioners Court still have not done is grant District Attorney Kim Ogg's longstanding request for more than 100 additional prosecutors, a move even defense attorneys concede is essential to attacking the backlog.
FOX 26 has learned Hidalgo’s "emergency initiative" will provide new money for nine prosecutors, three paralegals, and three investigators with a total annual addition of more than $2 million dollars to HCDA funding.
"We have to have additional prosecutors, so I'm back with the message I had several years ago. If you really want to have criminal justice reform you are going to have to hire people," said Ogg in a recent interview with FOX 26.
Meantime, Harris County's Chief Public Defender Alex Bunin denied that violent crime has shown any significant increase.
"A lot of what's being said is anecdote, not statistics, anecdote," claimed Bunin.
Concerned citizens viewed that assertion as unfounded.
"The numbers are staggering.... defendants out on multiple felony bonds have killed127 men, women, children and unborn children," said Cara Vann, a Harris County resident.