Heights business owners critical of HPD over neighborhood crime

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and roughly 15 other officers addressed a tense crowd of frustrated business owners in the Heights who say they're fed up of having their restaurants and cars broken into time and time again.

"I've been hit 47 times!" said one business owner.

Chief Acevedo acknowledged the frequency of the burglaries and admitted more needs to be done to stop repeat criminals.

"Crooks will sometimes do a risk versus gain analysis - just like anybody else and if they figure out they're getting passes time and again, if its violent crime or property crime, compared to another county - guess where they're going to be doing the crime?" he said.

The Department said they'll now take a more proactive approach instead of reactive, and promised to be more transparent with their successful arrests.

"We're going to have uniform units and non-uniform units patrolling the high crime areas that we designated and we researched as the potential for being broken into," said HPD Assistant Chief Pedro Lopez. "We're going to have our patrol officers respond to the scene make every attempt to lift prints."

Acevedo said a DNA profile can be made in just 90 minutes with new fingerprinting technology.

But business owners like Bobby Heugel who owns and operates 10 bars and restaurants in Houston, including Better Luck Tomorrow on Yale Street, criticized HPD for their lack of action in the past.

“I think those are great proposals but I’m dubious about whether or not that'll happen. I haven’t seen the response in the past,” Heugel said.

Heugel was just one of the dozens who spoke up at Monday's meeting, with similar complaints.

“I think it’s a first great step for us to have HPD here. I’m really concerned about how the police chief is not aware that we're not getting assigned investigators. And they seem unaware that the communication just isn’t there when we make the report and that’s totally unacceptable,” Heugel said.

Monday’s town hall lasted nearly two hours. Chief Acevedo said they hope to have monthly meetings to keep an open dialogue about the progress of the burglaries.

Acevedo said he wants to invite prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office, judges and city council members to join the conversation next time.

Acevedo said the biggest deterrent is an increased police presence.

HPD said the department has made 315 arrests for this division alone – over the past 36 months, including arresting a suspect in connection to the burglaries at Down House and Better Luck Tomorrow in mid-January.

Acevedo also hopes to increase transparency with the department and communicate publically with business owners when a burglary arrest has been made.

HPD urged business owners to never stop reporting and to continue to do their part and turn over evidence.