Houstonians’ fear of crime may heat up, perhaps unreasonably, because of a spike in homicides, say police officials and a longtime student of local attitudes, the Houston Chronicle reports. Muders, which draw attention because of their violence and rarity compared with other crimes, could create the false impression that overall crime is on the rise. The overall number of crimes from January to November 2005 decreased 2.2 percent over the same period in 2004, though violent crimes rose slightly.
News that the number of homicides has increased 23 percent so far in 2005 over last year might cause more local residents to fear for their personal or family safety – a fear that has declined since 1995, according to the Houston Area Survey. “It’s gone down, but it has the room to go up, and this might well fuel that,” said Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University sociologist who has supervised the survey since 1982. Survey data collected in the spring show that the number of local residents who feel “very worried” about being victimized has increased in the past two years, to 26 percent this year from 20 percent in 2003. That figure, however, was 40 percent in 1995. “It doesn’t take long for members of the general public to have an increased fear of becoming victims of a violent crime,” said Lt. Robert Manzo, a police department spokesman. He said that apparent stranger-on-stranger crimes, like the robbery-slayings of a couple yesterday, only exacerbate fears.