A violent crime initiative announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice will bring a new focus on prosecuting Houston’s most disruptive criminals and targeting gang members, who law enforcement leaders say are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime in the city.
“Everyone should feel safe in their homes, in their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, violent crime deprives too many of our communities of that fundamental security,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said during a news conference.
According to the DOJ, the plan includes extra help from federal organized crime and gang prosecutors. The DOJ is also surging help from dedicated investigative agents and forensic experts from the FBI and ATF.
Houston will also receive a nearly $2,000,000 grant to help reduce gun crime and other violence, one of 52 communities and organizations in the country to receive a total of $100,000,000 in grants announced Thursday.
“We will develop strong cases where the defendants who possess the greatest danger to threats to the community will be arrested, will not be released on bond, and will receive significant prison sentences,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Jennifer Lowery said.
For victims of violent crime, the new initiative is encouraging.
“We want to get justice, but we also want to try to stop the violence,” Sharon Shepard said, who lost two of her nephews in separate shootings. “With all the violence that’s going on, we’re just like devastated. When is it going to stop?”
Two men shot and killed her nephew Edmond Ford inside his southwest Houston apartment in 2016. Three years later, a gunman killed Shepard’s other nephew Joseph Billie in the middle of a south Houston street.
Both murders remain unsolved.
“They didn’t get to live their life,” Shepard said. “I hope that it will get us justice, for my nephews, for my family, and for the other families that are coming behind me.”
Law enforcement leaders emphasized the effort isn’t only about government intervention, but also about people in the community stepping forward to speak out against violence.