HOUSTON - The City of Houston is now participating in the CIte and Release program implemented by Harris County earlier this year.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed the program into policy in an Executive Order on Monday.
The program, which will go into effect at 6 a.m. Tuesday, gives Houston police officers the authority to issue citations to individuals accused of certain minor offenses. Class A and B misdemeanor offenses will be eligible for the program.
Houston Police Dept.'s Class C policy is currently being ranked in consideration of the new Cite and Release policy.
The objective is to achieve measurable change in how HPD officers are handling low-level offenses. Therefore, the executive order also makes clear that HPD will track and report the data on citations issued under the program.
The following Class A and B misdemeanors are eligible for tickets instead of jail time:
1. Possession of a controlled substance, if the controlled substance is four ounces or less
2. Criminal Mischief, if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100 or more but less than $750
3. Graffiti, if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100 or more but less than $2,500
4. Theft, if the value of the property stolen is $100 or more but less than $750
5. Theft of Service, if the value of the service stolen is $100 or more but less than $750
6. Contraband in a Correctional Facility, if the offense is a Class B misdemeanor
7. Driving with an invalid license
"This is not a matter of getting soft on crime. It's about getting smart on crime," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. "The Cite and Release program is a long time coming and long overdue. It is something we are very proud to implement."
There are approximately 3,000 cases from last year that would have been eligible under the Cite and Release policy. So, going forward, we should extend a decline in the number of low-level offenders going to jail as a direct result of the Cite and Release policy.
We have 5,300 police officers covering 640 square miles. The question is how we can best utilize them and their time, while simultaneously protecting the public and judiciously servicing the members of the public based on low-level offense presented
The Cite and Release Program has been implemented in other cities where it has helped to reduce the jail population for nonviolent offenders, reduce the time officers spend on jail processing procedures and improve response times by getting officers back into service more quickly