County struggles to address burglary rate

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – While the general consensus may be that burglary and property crimes have escallated this year, it does not seem to be born out by official statistics, in fact the Harris County Sheriff’s Office indicates that the number of burglaries has declined slightly in 2012.

While there was almost a burglary a day in the Crosby area in December there were more in 2011.

Last Tuesday, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court began to address False Alarms, one of the burdens to law enforcement patrol units. False alarms in unincorporated Harris County for burglary, fire, or panic alarm amount to 100,000 calls a year in which 99% are false. Now a false alarm may be assessed for a $75 fine. An individual or business could get away with about 5 without getting the fine but after the fourth false alarm, the assessment begins. The county issues 14,000 more permits each year for alarms.

According to Harris County Sheriff’s Office Christina Garza, Manager of the Media Relations Executive Bureau, “We at the HCSO have statistics from January 1 through October 31, 2012. Cases from the remaining two months of the year are still being analyzed for statistical categorization. These are all under the Uniform Crime Reports data that go to the FBI through the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In those 10 months, there were 8,847 residential burglaries in the unincorporated areas of Harris County, compared to 9,155 during the corresponding period in 2011.

There were 1,489 commercial burglaries (not “offices”), compared to 1,273 in the corresponding period in 2011.

We do not have data for burglaries inside city limits, that would have to come from the Houston Police Dept.

With the population in the unincorporated areas continuing to boom, the drop in residential burglaries is a positive sign, and the HCSO is always analyzing data developing new strategies to stem an increase in commercial burglaries – keeping in mind that more and more businesses are opening in our patrol districts.”

And reporting and keeping track of crime statistics is a challenge for anyone since the standards for what consititutes a burglary changes from state to state. In Texas if someone is stealing copper wire from your outside air conditioning that is a burglary, in other states one must enter a residence to commit a burglary.

A U.S. Department of Justice source commented on recent reports that Houston was the top city for burglary in the United States. She indicates that whereas the City of Houston Police Department reported to the F.B.I. that there were 27,459 burglaries in 2011 and 303 less burglaries in Houston last year, when comparing to other cities the number of variables are multiple.

In her words, “Until data users examine all the variables that affect crime in a town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction, they can make no meaningful comparisons. Besides, more proactive law enforcement will derive higher reportage of incidents. That does not mean that more crimes are committed in an area. You would be reporting a crime increase where there is more looking for crime.”