Homicides in Houston increased nearly 25 percent during the first three months of 2006 compared with the same period last year, despite a multimillion-dollar police effort in the city’s most crime-ridden areas, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Houston Police Department investigated 90 homicides through Friday, compared with 73 in the first quarter of 2005. That puts the city on track for the deadliest year in more than a decade and would erase the gains made in the 1990s, when the city’s homicide tally was cut in half.
The carnage this year reflects the same trends that police publicized in 2005 after a bloody Thanksgiving weekend and a spate of homicides involving Hurricane Katrina evacuees from New Orleans. Police Chief Harold Hurtt admitted that the police department was slow to identify the patterns. He blamed a staffing shortage that grew worse over the last year and outmoded tools for crime analysis. Hurtt for the first time has appointed a captain to oversee the analysis of crime statistics. The chief receives updates on crime in the city’s police divisions every five days – up from 45-day intervals between such briefings when he joined the department.