HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Chief of Police Art Acevedo joined Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen for a town hall in Meyerland to address public safety Monday night.
The auditorium in the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center was so packed, the meeting had to be live streamed to a second room.
The conversation comes on the heels of a fatal shooting involving a 10-month-old boy at the Nob Hill East Apartments. Messiah Marshall was shot in his fathers arms at 1:40 P.M. on June 14 as his father was taking out the trash.
Just about a mile away, on May 22, a 1-year-old was struck in the leg by stray bullets while riding in the back of his moms car on Carew near Mullen Drive.
Chief Art Acevedo has expressed suspicion that these shootings were gang related, though he emphasized Monday night they were not related incidents.
"We have already started targeting long-term [gang] operations, the worst of the worst," said Chief Acevedo to community members Monday. "My exact words to them? We're going to take back these apartments one complex at a time."
Multiple senior police officials emphasized a crackdown on smaller crimes – particularly aggravated assault – which they hope will lead to a reduction in murders and other violence.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pointed out law enforcement's limitations in terms of both size and budget.
"We are the fourth largest city in the United States, soon to become the third, with 5,100 police officers. We need another, at least, 600 and that's a cost of about $85 million"
Mayor Turner says he doesn't have the budget, pointing to the voter approved city revenue cap as one limiting factor. While he says it will give residents an average rebate this year of $33, he points out the funds would have been enough to hire 250 police officers and pay their salary plus their benefits for one year.
It was pointed out of that resident funded community policing has been an effective way to support law-enforcement in the area, as was the case with baby Messiah.
Law enforcement asked the community to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Nextdoor for both emergency and general safety alerts. They say social media allows faster communication than has been historically available.