Houston-area streets are active with a growing number of gang members, with police saying there are almost 20,000 in the region, an increase of 29 percent since 2010, reports the Houston Chronicle. The number of gangs identified by law enforcement has also grown – 296, up from 260 in the same period. “My main thing here is not to alarm the public. What happens is somebody throws a number out there … and then people react to that and say that’s a terribly large number and our gang problem is out of control, and that just couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Capt. Dale Brown, head of the police gang division. “Total confirmed gang crime in the city of Houston is still less than 5 percent of our total reported crime.”
Former Houston Police Chief C. O. Bradford, now a City Council member, wants to reduce the number of cadets by 10 in two of the department’s 70-member academy classes each year. The estimated savings of $1.6 million in trainee pay could be used to fund a coordinated after-school program that would thwart gang recruitment. Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, called Bradford’s idea “crazy,” noting that the department is barely keeping pace with attrition.