Crime rate drops in Brays Oaks

September 14, 2011 • Houston Chronicle

A media report last November about the top 10 neighborhoods with the most aggravated assaults presented a puzzle for Richard Rodriguez, who helps direct public safety programs for the Brays Oaks Management District in southwest Houston.

The list was comparing areas large and small, without considering that more populous neighborhoods may only seem to have a higher rate of assaults.

After some fact-checking, Rodriguez found out that the densely populated southwest Houston neighborhoods served by the management district didn’t belong on the list at all.

In fact, when population density is added to the equation, the Brays Oaks region’s 2010 crime rate ranks below average for the city of Houston.

Rodriguez called the 2010 analysis of crime statistics “an eye-opener.”

“For too long, our greatest asset, density, has been used against us,” he said Aug. 25 in a meeting with members of the crime prevention committee of Southwest Houston 2000, a community improvement coalition.

The 2010 analysis measures reported “Part I” and “Part II” crimes per 100,000 residents in patrol divisions served by Houston Police Department. Part I crimes are generally more serious, including murder, rape, robbery and burglary. Part II crimes include simple assaults, prostitution and forgery.

The citywide average for 2010 amounted to 12,434 crimes per 100,000 residents.

HPD’s Fondren Division had 10,636 crimes, while the northern part of the Southwest Division, which also serves the Brays Oaks area, had 9,280.

The highest rate of crime, 20,177 per 100,000 residents, occurred in the northern portion of HPD’s Central Division, the analysis shows.

Rodriguez said the management district is working to bring public perception about crime in the area in line with what the data shows. The district extends from U.S. 59 to South Post Oak and from Bissonnet to US 90A/Main Street on the south.

The district also will continue to use monthly statistics to target crime that is occurring along commercial corridors within its boundaries, he said.

Toward that end, the Brays Oaks district has joined with Greater Sharpstown and Spring Branch management districts to contract with the Harris County Attorney’s Office to help prosecute criminal nuisances that are impacting neighborhoods in those areas.

Assistant County Attorney Laura Fiorentino Cahill is assigned to the task. At the Aug. 25 meeting, she described her role to help prosecute criminal nuisances described in Chapter 125 of the state’s Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

The law holds landowners accountable for repeated crimes that occur on their premises, including sale or use of drugs, prostitution and gambling. When a nuisance location is documented, Cahill said landowners typically evict the offending tenant. If not, they can be forced to abate the nuisance, she said.

The city of Houston also prosecutes nuisances, but the process can be lengthy and put a strain on manpower. Cahill said she will work with the city to help solve these types of issues that impact Brays Oaks neighborhoods.

Citing other management district initiatives that have included mobile surveillance cameras and aggressive graffiti abatement, Bruce Krewinghouse, president of the Southwest Houston 2000 coalition, said, “This is another example of outside-the-box thinking and trying something new.”