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Houston Crime Stoppers Goes Political, Attacks Democratic Judges

Crime Stoppers of Houston has been blasting out more political message of late: Activist judges are letting “dangerous criminals” out of jail to threaten the safety of law-abiding residents. On television, Twitter and videos, the nonpartisan nonprofit organization has been condemning more than a dozen elected judges — all Democrats, four of whom lost primaries last month — while praising the crime policies of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, report the New York Times and the Marshall Project. “What we’re seeing is an assault against the community” by the judges, said Rania Mankarious, the organization’s chief executive, on Fox News. The group’s stands followed shifts in Houston’s approach to prosecuting low-level crimes and setting bail. The changes helped prompt a political backlash fed partly by Crime Stoppers campaign and a rising murder rate.

The drive intersects with the organization’s financial interests. The organization, with an annual budget of about $2.4 million, has become reliant on state grants backed by Abbott. Those grants included $4 million in 2017 that was never publicized by Abbott or Crime Stoppers. The organization received $500,000 last year from the local district attorney from funds seized in asset forfeiture. The district attorney, a conservative Democrat, used to run Crime Stoppers, is in sync with the group on bail issues and has not been publicly criticized by it. Many of the Democratic judges Crime Stoppers is criticizing have cut into the organization’s revenue by curbing a common practice requiring many people sentenced to probation to pay a $50 fee that goes to Crime Stoppers. The drop in court revenue and the growing reliance on funding from elected officials came as Crime Stoppers went into debt and ran growing annual deficits. A Crime Stoppers' lawyer said the Times-Marshall Project article would be “a hit piece for purely partisan purposes.”

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