$150 million for “Safe Harris” and VIPER
HARRIS COUNTY – County leaders on Wednesday touted an overall decrease in violent crime across the region and announced the Safe Harris initiative — a four year $150 million public safety investment focused on further reducing crime in Harris County.
According to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county saw a 7% decrease in violent crime since June 2021, with a 4% decrease in homicides. Additionally, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez added that since December 13, his department seized 279 guns, cleared 1,303 warrants, and filed over 1,000 charges — a majority of those being felony charges, Gonzalez said.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Gonzalez said. “We’re taking crime seriously here in Harris County, and we’re going to continue to work collaboratively and learn from what’s working and what’s not working.”
The additional money will bolster the county’s ongoing public safety investments and help fund the Violent Persons Task Force, or Viper, which will launch next month in Harris County with the aim to “take the most dangerous individuals off the street,” according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
“These efforts are part of the effort to address the common threat, which is in the rise of violence,” Garcia said. “This is why more common sense gun laws and measures are needed.”
The county also created the Safe Harris website, which compiles already existing dashboards — including data on Harris County Jail’s population and the county’s criminal court backlog — into one centralized location, along with information about the county’s public safety spending.
“SafeHarris.com is for you, our community, and is designed to give you a full view of the money and programs being developed and implemented,” said Deputy County Administrator for Public Safety Perrye Turner.
During the briefing, the focus shifted to the county’s short fiscal year $1.3 billion budget, which focused heavily on public safety.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office saw a $123.6 million increase in total funding from from 2019 to 2021, which funded additional overtime and increased salaries for county law enforcement, according to the Safe Harris website.
Judge Hidalgo added that the budget for the Harris County DA’s Office has increased by $12.7 million from 2019 to 2021 and adamantly dismissed accusations of defunding law enforcement — claims that Hidalgo said were purposefully perpetuated by political opponents during an election year.
“We have increased the funding for every single law enforcement agency, so it is a lie,” she said. “You are hurting our law enforcement and you are hurting our democracy when you’re willing to spread lies.”
Harris County Commissioners Court previously allocated millions to several programs aimed at reducing crime and increasing community safety, including a controversial “ShotSpotter” gunshot detection pilot program in Aldine and two public safety programs meant to decrease reliance on police intervention.