Houston’s crime rate fell more than 5 percent last year compared with 2005, despite a well-publicized spike in homicides, reports the Houston Chronicle. Police made nearly 20 percent more arrests in 2006, a key factor that likely led to the crime reduction, Mayor Bill White said. He credited the improvements to stepped-up enforcement in crime “hot spots,” a push fueled by police overtime and some federal funding. That expensive effort could be reduced if the favorable crime trends continue, the mayor said. “A lot of the crime was gang-related, with career criminals or repetitive criminals. You take them off the streets, the crime goes down,” said White.
Overall, the crime rate per 100,000 residents was down 5.7 percent. The homicide rate, however, increased about 5 percent. Police Chief Harold Hurtt said his detectives did a good job solving last year’s homicides, clearing 70 percent of the cases, compared with 58 percent the previous year. The national average for homicide clearance was 62 percent in 2005. Arrests rose about 18 percent, from 96,000 in 2005 to 113,000 last year. A survey last year by Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg showed that about a third of residents believe crime is the city’s biggest problem, up from 13 percent a year before. It was the first time in years survey participants hadn’t cited traffic as the most troublesome issue, Klineberg said.