In the fourth-largest U.S. city, a Houston police staffing study says that 15,000 burglaries and thefts, 3,000 hit-and-run crashes and 3,000 assaults were set aside last year without a follow-up investigation, reports the Houston Chronicle. Police commanders said they didn’t have enough staff to review the cases, even those with promising leads. Said one victim: “It seems like (crime has) increased, and to (the point of) not being able to leave your home in a peaceful state of mind. You kind of feel helpless … you feel you’re out there exposed, like you’re out there on your own.” The report’s finding that thousands of crimes aren’t being fully investigated has angered citizens, civil rights groups and victims and surprised some City Council members.
The disclosure came shortly after the Police Department disciplined eight homicide detectives for either ignoring or conducting shoddy investigations into nearly two dozen deaths. Last week, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland defended his officers at a City Council meeting, saying his department was understaffed. Officers cannot and shouldn’t investigate every crime reported to them, the chief said. Instead, McClelland said violent crimes are the priority. The tally of unworked cases came as no surprise to former Houston police investigators, former Police Chief C.O. Bradford and union officials. They described a daily triage by Houston police lieutenants and sergeants, who review reports of new crimes and determine which have no leads or “solvability factors.”