by Karen Campbell, UBA Guest Editor

Companion Article:  Gangs - Churches Take Action

City Launches Efforts to Stop Houston Gangs

Some Facts About Gangs:

  • There are more than 10,000 documented gang members and more than 200 documented gangs in the greater Houston area. /files/Photos/PagesStorageBin/Front Page News/GangHoustone.jpg
  • According to the National Gang Threat Assessment, the Houston-area region is home to more gang members than anywhere in Texas. Reports also suggest that half of all the crime in Houston is gang-related.
  • The largest gang -- the "Houstones" - have at least 2,233 members confirmed by police.  (more in articles at www.chron.comJudge bars gang members from Haverstock Hills and Most gangs in Texas call Houston region home ) 

/files/Photos/PagesStorageBin/Stop-HG2_1.jpgIn 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:

  • Option to anonymously report gang activity
  • Statistics on gang activity
  • How to tell if criminal activity is related to gangs
  • Listing of the gangs at work in the Houston-Harris County area
  • How to look for the signs and markings, such as tattoos of gang members

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.

/files/Photos/PagesStorageBin/Front Page News/Graffiti-Truck_1.jpgAnother 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.  /files/Photos/PagesStorageBin/Front Page News/Graffiti-Crew.jpgGEEMD 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:

  • Awareness training to educators and administrators, service agencies, health care providers, and law enforcement and criminal justice personnel;
  • Presentations to students at both primary and secondary schools to educate them on the consequences and dangers of gang involvement;
  • Gang awareness education is also provided to parents, care givers, and the general public to assist them in identifying and addressing gang involvement within their families and communities; and
  • Street level gang intervention counselors provide case management, mediation and counseling for gang-involved youth seeking to leave a gang.

To schedule a speaker of for more information on projects and services, visit http://www.houstontx.gov/publicsafety/antigang/.  

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Ganging Up on Gangs