Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo pledges action after survey says Houstonians feel unsafe

From the day she took the oath of office, Lina Hidalgo's expressed desire was to hear from as many of Harris County's 4.6 million residents as possible.

After weeks of community meetings and a month long survey, about 11,000 citizens responded.

"It's going to be a lot of work to make county government totally open, accessible, and engaging and we have a long way to go," said Hidalgo.

Harris County's chief executive believes the snap shot generated by her "Talking Transition" initiative yielded valuable insights - especially from traditionally underserved communities.

"Regardless of where they live, 44 percent of respondents reported feeling unsafe about (future) disasters and natural disasters," said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo says that collective insecurity is being addressed with hundreds of fully funded flood mitigation projects.

Among other major concerns emerging from the survey, is an environment many see as deteriorating.

"Folks reported that air quality and water throughout the County is declining," said Hidalgo.

In response, the County Judge pledged more scientific focus and better testing.

Of all the survey results, the most alarming involved "law and order", with 40 percent of those who responded calling their neighborhoods "unsafe" and nearly half retaining a "negative perception of the criminal justice system".

Hidalgo promised a continued push toward bail reform and what she calls "best practices".

"We've got to identify the folks that don't need to be in jail because they can't pay. They haven't been convicted of anything and we are responding to that and making our community safer instead of less safe," said Hidalgo.

While the survey would not be considered scientific, more than a third of those responding say they struggled last year to find a good job and pay the cost of their housing.