By: Mark Diaz
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How Violent Crimes Are Increasing In Texas
Murders roses at least 7% nationally in 2021, according to recent studies. In Texas, we have seen similar increases in violent crime in many cities. For example, Austin had 88 murders in 2021, a 90% increase from 47 in 2020. Other Texas’ biggest cities saw surges in homicides and other violent crimes:
- San Antonio: 25% higher
- Houston: 17% higher
- Fort Worth: 9% higher
The only good news for 2021 was that Dallas saw a 13% drop in murders. Unfortunately, for 2022, there also is a continuing trend of rising violent crime. Below is more information about this troubling trend and related information. Remember to contact the League City criminal defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates if you have been accused of a violent crime. It is vital to get started on a vigorous criminal defense strategy immediately.
2020 Crimes In Texas Report Shows Violent Crime Hotspots
The 2020 Crimes in Texas report is an excellent place to start, showing a marked rise in violent crimes in many Texas communities. These are the cities with the highest violent crime rates in 2020:
- Sugar Land: 55.99 violent crime rate
- McAllen: 85.05
- Frisco: 86.07
- Allen: 97.03
- Pearland: 99.02
- Carrolton: 112.88
- League City: 114.91
- Richardson: 127.22
- McKinney: 134.40
- Round Rock: 135.91
The report noted that the violent crime statistics included rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault. In addition, violent crimes in Texas rose by 10,000 occurrences in 2020 compared to 2019.
Violent Criminal Activity Rises In Austin
In 2020 and 2021, Austin experienced extensive public policy and safety issues in the community and law enforcement agencies. That could be why the capital city saw such a spike in murders. Experts say the Austin Police Department has struggled with officer retirements, discontent, and a lack of support from city politicians.
Further, Austin PD’s response time to emergency calls is considered too high at eight minutes. As a result, the police department often operates with less than its 774 street officer positions. Police force attrition increased dramatically when the city cut $150 million from the police budget in 2020.
Houston Seeing Record Homicides In 2022
Since January 2022, Houston has been at the top of the country in murders. The city has not had this many murders in decades. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said earlier this year that ‘violent crime is a public health crisis’ in his city.
As of Feb. 7, 2022, only Chicago led Houston for the number of homicides – 61 vs. 57. New York City and Los Angeles were far behind in third and fourth position.
A media investigation of the Houston Police Department’s homicide statistics for January found that 47 murders occurred in 20 zip codes. Criminal justice experts say bond and bail reform and the Harris County case backlog are significant reasons for more violent crime.
The Houston mayor recently released a 17-page plan to reduce violent crime in the city. The plan funds 125 more officers on Houston streets daily, including overtime.
Fort Worth Safe Violent Crime Strategy Started In April 2022
Fort Worth is another Texas city that has seen an unfortunate rise in murders and other violent crimes. In response, the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) launched the Fort Worth Safe Violent Crime Strategy in April.
As of late August 2022, the city saw a 5.5% drop in homicides and a 24% drop in non-lethal shootings. There also was a 22% drop in aggravated assaults. But there was a 2.5% rise in robberies, and the year-to-date homicide rate is still higher than last year.
Some Concerned With Relaxed Texas Gun Laws
As of Sept. 1, 2021, most Texas citizens were allowed to carry a handgun in public without a concealed-carry permit. They also do not need to have gun safety or target training. Some Texas law enforcement officials say the lax gun laws could be responsible for the increase in violent crimes.
HB 1927 allows everyone in Texas who qualifies to carry a handgun without a permit. The qualifications are:
- Be 21 or older
- Not have a previous felony conviction
- Not have a recent conviction for some misdemeanors noted in Texas Penal Code Sections 46.02 and 46.04
- Not be restricted from owning a gun per federal law
Bail Reform Also May Be Contributing To Violent Crime Spike
However, other authorities say the problem is bail reform. Douglas Griffith, President of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, argues that Harris County started releasing convicts in 2018 who were charged with misdemeanors with no bond. Griffith says that began the rise in felony crimes in Houston and the surrounding area.
Harris County Crime Stoppers reports that since 2018, felony defendants given bond murdered 177 people in the county. Griffith argues that when a violent offender gets a low bond and commits another violent crime with a gun, that suggests where the rise in crime is coming from.
He believes Harris County courts need to take away bonds for those charged with violent crimes. They should also issue arrest warrants and have them face justice. The official also said revoking bail would take dangerous criminals off Texas streets and reduce gun violence.
What You Should Know If You Have Been Charged With A Violent Crime
There is little doubt there has been a spike in violent crimes across Texas in recent years. However, that does not mean everyone charged with a violent crime is guilty. So what should you do if you have been accused of a violent crime in Texas?
First, you should understand what is considered a violent crime in Texas:
- Any crime in the Texas Penal Code or federal statute that causes a personal injury to the victim
- A crime that is not an offense in the Penal Code includes the operation of an aircraft, motor vehicle, or water vehicle that causes injury or death.
The most common Texas violent crimes are murder, kidnapping, assault, rape, manslaughter, and armed robbery. These crimes are felonies, so the penalties are more severe than misdemeanors.
In Texas, you can receive the death penalty for a murder conviction. Other punishments may be life in prison, probation, being put in the sex offender registry, and fines. You will also be unable to live the way you did before the felony conviction.
Convicted felons in Texas deal with constant stigma from friends, family, and society. As a result, you will have difficulty finding a job, going to school, and renting an apartment. That is why you should always speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Are Possible Defenses For A Violent Crime Charge?
In Texas, prosecutors must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means if the jury doubts your guilty, they must find you not guilty. Depending on the case circumstances, your attorney may use one or more of these defenses:
Being convicted of a violent crime in Texas requires the prosecutor to place you at the scene of the crime. There also must be overwhelming physical evidence. An experienced criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to establish a credible alibi for your defense. For example, many attorneys call at least two eyewitnesses to the stand to verify your whereabouts when the crime happened.
Your attorney also may show the jury physical evidence that shows you could not have been at the crime scene. For example, some useful physical evidence includes video footage from work showing you were on the job when the alleged crime happened.
Your attorney might investigate if your 4th Amendment rights were violated during the arrest and questioning. This is the amendment that outlaws illegal searches and seizures. Legal counsel also will verify that you were read your Miranda Rights.
Self-defense can be used as a defense for some violent crimes. If you plead self-defense, you say you harmed or killed another person to defend yourself. However, claiming self-defense is much different from proving it in court. Your attorney will need to show an incredible risk of danger that justified your violent action.
Self-defense also can be applied to cases where you protect a friend or family member. It also can be used if you protect a stranger from harm. Using this defense requires tremendous skill and preparation by your criminal defense attorney.
Speak To League City Criminal Defense Lawyers Today Lawyer Now
If you have been charged with a violent crime, it is essential to have excellent legal representation as soon as possible. Being convicted of a violent crime in Texas could mean years stuck in a hot, crowded prison, thousands in fines, and a permanent felony record. Mark Diaz is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has fought for Texans’ legal rights for over 20 years.
Mark Diaz & Associates represent people charged with violent crimes in League City, Galveston, Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, League City, Texas City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, Bolivar Peninsula, Dickinson, and San Leon. Contact one of our League City criminal defense lawyers at (409) 515-6170.