New Houston Squad Attacks Nighttime Near-Murders

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The Houston Police Department’s new overnight investigative unit, Squad 13, made its first case a week ago: charging a 24-year-old man with shooting another man who tried to intervene in a domestic dispute, the Houston Chronicle reports. The arrest marked the debut of the squad, tasked with chasing down criminals responsible for thousands of serious but nonlethal aggravated assaults, robberies, shootings and other violent crimes that play out at night. It reflects a serious shift in police efforts to fight gun violence and other serious crimes overlooked in years past while homicide investigators focused on fatalities. “It’s common sense,” said Police Chief Art Acevedo, who has made fighting gun crime a top priority. “You can’t have detectives and investigators not rolling on aggravated assaults. Aggravated assaults are just a failed murder.”

Guns claimed more than 400 lives in Houston through homicide or suicide, and firearms were used in at least another 5,450 aggravated assaults in 2016. Much of the crime happens at night. “The only crooks that work banker hours are Enron execs and bank robbers,” said criminologist Larry Karson of the University of Houston-Downtown. “Having investigators respond around-the-clock means that they have a chance to immediately locate witnesses at the scene and do field interviews instead of trying to find witnesses a day or two later based only on a busy patrol officer’s report.” The new investigators augment the 15 detectives and sergeants on Squad 8, the overnight murder squad. “It really is something we need,” said Lt. Warren Meeler, who oversees the new unit. “There’s a lot of shootings out there that are just a millimeter away from being a murder.”

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