Homicides declined in Houston in 2008 by 15 percent, the Houston Chronicle reports. As of yesterday, police had investigated 294 homicides, down from 348 homicides reported during the same period in 2007. Violent crimes as a whole – homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults – appeared to hold steady.
Statistics don’t mean much when officers face unexpected tragedies, such as the violent loss of one of their own. Houston police lost three officers to violence this year – two in the line of duty, and one who was supposed to be enjoying her retirement. A laughing driver who crashed through traffic barricades ran down and killed Houston police officer Gary Gryder in June as Gryder stood watch at a construction site. On Dec. 7, police officer Timothy Abernethy was killed by a gunman who allegedly ambushed him during a foot chase at an apartment complex. In August, retired Houston officer Velia “Belle” Ortega, the first female Hispanic officer, died from complications resulting from a drive-by shooting at a family member’s home a month earlier. Ortega, 78, in a wheelchair due to a stroke, was shot while watching a soap opera on TV.