As Houston Crime Drops, Pols Talk More About It


Crime has emerged as a top issue for Houston political candidates this year, even through crime rates are going down, says the Houston Chronicle. The decrease in criminality appears to have an inverse relationship with political rhetoric on crime. “It's probably very difficult for any politician to acknowledge that the problem of crime is decreasing, because that undermines the importance of the issue,” said Dennis Longmire, a professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University. “Politicians use a fear of crime to garner support and get voters' attention.”

In community forums, public appearances, and televised exchanges, candidates in the November mayor's race and a May 9 council election have brought up crime as much as any issue. Nearly three quarters of Houston-area residents interviewed in 2008 for Rice University's annual Houston Area Survey said that they are “somewhat worried” or “very worried” they or a family member will become a victim of a crime. That is higher than any year since the mid '90s. Joe Householder, a longtime observer of local politics who has spearheaded communications efforts for several national candidates, said the existing perceptions of crime make the topic fair game in a campaign. “The fact that the crime statistics suggest that crime is down does not mean that crime is not a problem,” he said. “Unless the numbers go to zero, you've still got a problem, and if you have a policy prescription that will reduce crime, you should talk about it.”

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