In 1990, about 800,000 of Harris County’s 2.8 million residents in the Houstonarea lived in unincorporated areas. By 2000, more than 1.2 million of the county’s 3.4 million residents jammed into areas once devoted to cattle or crops, says the Houston Chronicle. With them came crime. Now, in places where so-called “driveway robbers” this year struck more than 100 times, suburbanites no longer take security for granted.
Residents exercise precautions. One never embarks on a stroll without her cellular telephone. Another packs a pistol as he mows the lawn. New numbers from the FBI show that while crime in Houston continued to fall in 2003, the numbers of violent offenses in unincorporated Harris County marched upward. Rapes for 2003 totalled 344 cases, up 47 from 2002; robberies jumped from 1,717 in 2002 to 1,807 in 2003; aggravated assaults rose to 4,371 from 2002’s 4,058. On the whole, Harris County residents are unconcerned about crime, regardless of what the numbers suggest. In 2004, only 11 percent of respondents listed crime as their biggest urban concern in Rice University’s Houston Area Survey, down from 73 percent a decade ago. Still, suburbanites’ sense of vulnerability is corrosive to peace of mind. Since 1995, the Harris County Sheriff’s department nearly has quadrupled the size of its patrol division, bringing the number of officers on the street to about 1,000.