by Karen Campbell, UBA Guest Editor
Companion Article: Gangs - Churches Take Action
City Launches Efforts to Stop Houston Gangs
Some Facts About Gangs:
In late September 2010, Houston area, state and federal lawmakers launched an electronic outreach effort to combat the problem of gangs in the greater Houston area. The City of Houston is offering education and awareness via presentations to small and large groups. The electronic response -- www.stophoustongangs.org -- brought 15 entities together including the City of Houston, HPD, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Homeland Security and was touted with 13 billboards and a media sweep.
The website is intended to make learning about and reporting gang activities easier for the public. The community policing initiative was touted as a proactive response to the startling increase in gang activity nationally, said Victor Senties, spokesman with HPD, Public Affairs.
"We don't want to sit back and wait for a problem to occur," he said. "We wanted to use a modern technology to improve communication between public and law enforcement. The community is our eyes and ears and without their help we can't know what's going on."
The website - www.stophoustongangs.org -- features helps such as:
Not only does the website allow for public education and anonymous tips, but as a back-end portal for law enforcement, it addresses the problem of accessing relevant, up-to-date intelligence about gang members and their criminal activities among partnering jurisdictions.
Since its launch in late September, more than 48,000 visitors to the website have netted almost 200 tips, said Mr. Senties.
"We understand the fear gangs generate so this website is a vehicle for an anonymous tip. We want to encourage anyone who sees strange activity that they feel is gang-related - graffiti, neighbors with heavy traffic that appears to be gang-related - to come forward," he explained.
Another collective approach to addressing gang-related crime was launched in late January 2011 as Mayor Annise Parker announced an inter-local agreement between The Greater East End Management District (GEEMD) and the City of Houston to remove graffiti on city property throughout greater Houston.
GEEMD will employ four "Graffiti Mobiles" dedicated to abating the graffiti, each decorated in photo images of the city's skyline. provide labor and materials for each graffiti removal project. Additionally, the GEEMD will track gang-related tags and report activity to the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office. GEEMD started its graffiti abatement program in 2001 in response to a sharp rise in graffiti rates and is currently the only district actually realizing graffiti abatement. (YouTube video)
According to The City of Houston website, the mission of the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office "operates under the premise that gang activity is best addressed through three strategies: prevention, intervention and suppression. Prevention and intervention are offered by service organizations, with suppression addressed by law enforcement and criminal justice agencies."
Among the services offered are:
To schedule a speaker of for more information on projects and services, visit http://www.houstontx.gov/publicsafety/antigang/.
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