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Houston Anticrime Plan Focuses on Cutting Court Backlogs

With more than 40 homicides already in 2022 and three police recovering after a gunman shot them last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner unveiled a $44 million plan to reduce violent crime, Courthouse News Service reports. Roland Caballero, 31, is in jail facing three counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer and two other felonies. He was arrested hours after he allegedly sprayed bullets at three officers as they arrived to investigate his car crash with a handgun that authorities say had been illegally modified into an automatic weapon.

“The city of Houston, like most major cities ... is experiencing a surge in violent crime,” Turner said Wednesday at a press conference with Police Chief Troy Finner and representatives of the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Crime Stoppers of Houston. Turner said the COVID-19 pandemic is partly but not solely to blame for the rampant bloodshed. “Other factors … include widespread social anxiety, economic uncertainty, mental health concerns, the increased presence of illegally owned firearms and a strained court system plagued by criminal case backlogs that impact the pretrial release and prosecution of violent offenders,” he added. His plan is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Key to the initiative is reducing the backlog of more than 100,000 criminal cases in Harris County courts. County prosecutors fell behind dockets in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey flooded the criminal courthouse, forcing them to conduct proceedings in the civil courthouse and even the basement of the jail. A sore point is a rash of violent crimes committed by people with histories of such offenses after their release from jail on bond.