‘Our Town’: The key to community policing in Alief/Westwood, one of Houston’s most diverse communities

Alief/Westwood – With well over a half dozen cultures represented across roughly six square miles, Houston’s Asia Town is one of the largest multicultural communities in the country. Houston Police Sergeant Don Vo grew up in Acres Homes but knows the community and it’s residents very well. A 16-year veteran of the force, he worked as the police department’s Asian Community Liaison Officer for six years before his recent promotion to Sergeant.

“I love the people and I love the food. Like food is number one for me. Like how you get to know a culture and as a people is through food. I think the heart and soul of this community is through it’s diversity. Very similar to what makes America great. What makes Houston great. It’s the Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Laos, the Malaysians, Philippines, Japanese,” Vo said.

Steeped in it’s rich history and tradition, Houston’s Asia Town is also growing and changing, reflecting the dynamic nature of the city’s cultural landscape. Vo said with so many new immigrants and refugees from all over Asia moving in, the under-reporting of crime and a general distrust of law enforcement persist as significant challenges.

“It comes from police abuse, police brutality from the past. And again, that’s not Houston. But maybe from that Asian country that they come from. It’s a cultural barrier,” Vo said.

Vo believes in leading with compassion. Breaking down those barriers and building trust is something he spent years pouring his heart and soul into.

“They see me as somebody that is willing to go beyond and help them. I’m gonna dig deep. Sometimes and through community leaders., people will reach out to me directly. We have a lot of non-profits in the area that I worked with and I have a good relationship with them. Every few months, we would have cadets come through what we call a multicultural bus tour. I would schedule with community leaders to come out and speak to the cadets. Many of them have never been to this area of town. They may be assigned to the area but they don’t know it yet. So, if they get a little bit of exposure about this area they’ll understand the community better,” Vo said.

Vo added community policing was the core of his mission during his time in the community and that visibility was and still is extremely important.

“Oh, extremely important! You know, like being a police officer for 16 years. Time and time again, the number one thing the community is always telling me is we want to see more police. We want to see more police. It’s what community policing is all about,” Vo said.

Although Vo no longer holds the title of Asian Community Liaison Officer and works in another police district, he still frequents many of the restaurants and shops in the Alief Westwood area. He also stays in touch with many of the people he met over years. People in the community still call him from time to time, asking for his advice.

“You know you’re always welcome back. That’s how I see it. It’s heartbreaking. I miss the community. I miss the people but I know it’s never goodbye. It’s just see you later,” Vo said.

Vo added that it’s a great feeling because it shows the level of trust that he’s spent a lot of time building over the years.

About the Author

Award-winning journalist, adventure seeker, explorer, dog lover.

Recommended Videos