Effective March 1, the security contract increased from 80 hours a week to 112, with special emphasis on the prevention of early morning burglaries at local businesses. Burks said the S.E.A.L. team has already proven itself in the HPD crime statistics which show an estimated 13% decrease in commercial burglaries over a two-month period from December to February.
A decline in the number of motor vehicle burglaries may be attributed to the signs that the District has distributed, free of charge, to be posted in parking lots. The signs remind patrons of local businesses, in both English and Vietnamese, to lock their cars and remove or hide all valuables which might be a temptation to a thief. Burglaries of motor vehicles have decreased 30% between December 2013 and January 2014, according to HPD statistics. “They seem to be effective,” Burks said. “We just ordered an additional 100.”
Litter, lighting, and graffiti are also critical factors in the overall public safety agenda, he said. In 2013, the District picked up 26,700 pounds of litter with a budget of $49,500 per year. Additionally, 1,753 sites marked with graffiti were cleaned up in 2013, making a total of 5,101 since 2009. The District’s yearly budget for graffiti abatement is $45,800.
Burks said a quarterly survey of street lights is very important to safety, and 1,782 lights have been replaced in the District since 2009.
“The number of burglaries targeting commercial businesses has decreased significantly since the District began working with S.E.A.L., a private security team with a canine unit.”
— Brian Burks, IMD Director of Services
In other public safety related initiatives, Burks said the Harris County Attorney’s office has been successful in shutting down three area “spas” which were fronts for prostitution operations as well as three game rooms. The County attorney is working with HPD undercover officers to investigate other game rooms where narcotics operations are suspected and is notifying property owners of illegal activities.
“Neither the International District nor the County Attorney is interested in filing lawsuits,” Burks added. “We’re far more interested in compliance: in a healthy community working within the law.”