Houston Police Chief: Burglaries Up 20 Percent After Coronavirus Stay-Home Orders

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. (File Photo: Breitbart Texas/Lana Shadwick)
File Photo: Breitbart Texas/Lana Shadwick

HOUSTON, Texas — Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo said burglaries in the city are up 20 percent since the issuance of “Stay-Home, Work-Safe” orders put in place by Harris County.

“Right now, burglaries have spiked 20 percent,” Chief Acevedo told Breitbart Texas in a phone interview. “Some people are seeing the shutdown of businesses as a target-rich opportunity. Habitual burglars should not be released.”

The chief said that there needs to be a plan for what to do with habitual criminals that are being released from the Harris County jail under orders from County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “What happens to these folks after they are released,” the chief asked. “What is the plan?”

Acevedo said Judge Hidalgo did not consult with him about the issue of releasing criminals from the county jail, a large percentage of which were arrested by his officers.

Police in other cities are also reporting increases in burglaries after stay-at-home orders are issued by local authorities.

Statistics reported by the New York City Police Department’s CompStat website show a 21.8 percent increase in burglaries in the last 28 days. The site also reports auto thefts are up by 64.2 percent during the same period. Murders, robbery, and shooting incidents also showed increases.

Minneapolis police and business owners also expressed concerns over burglaries as more businesses and stores are closed due to stay-at-home orders, the StarTribune reported. Since February 5 the number of burglaries nearly doubled.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this, but we do know when we are in times of economic crisis, that we see certain types of crime go up, so things like burglaries, robberies and domestic violence,” Hamline University criminology Prof. Jillian Peterson told the Minnesota newspaper.

Despite promises that violent criminals would not be releases, KTRK ABC13 in Houston reports that some were released on bonds as low as $10.

The Houston ABC affiliate reports:

Kelvin Hawthorne, 18, is accused of punching and choking his girlfriend on Monday. Normally, that kind of crime gets a $1000 bond and often times it’s a personal recognizance bond, which means release from jail on the promise to return.

On Tuesday, a judge granted Hawthorne a $100 bond. He paid $10, had to agree to bond conditions and was released from jail.

Craig Jones, 55, is accused of hitting and choking his wife. He has prior violent convictions. The state requested a $10,000 bond. On Tuesday, a magistrate made it much lower, granting a $300 bond.

Timothy Singleton, 21, also has prior convictions. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, after being accused of pulling a gun on his aunt’s neighbor. Singleton was granted a $500 bond, which means $50 would get him out of jail. Normally bond would be at least $20,000.

Tori McFarland, 23, accused of robbery with bodily injury, a violent crime, got out of jail on a $10 bond.

In anticipation of a mass-release of inmates, including violent felons, Governor Abbott issued an executive order that prohibits the release of “any person convicted of a crime that involves violence or the threat of violence, or a person currently arrested for such a crime.”

However, some of Harris County’s misdemeanor court judges plan on sidestepping the order, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“Instead, the judges will continue to abide by a federal order signed last year that called for the release of low-level defendants on no-cash bail, or personal bonds, the letter said,” according to the Houston newspaper. “Abbott’s executive order prohibited releasing defendants previously accused or convicted of a violent crime on personal bonds.”

“Using the pandemic to advance that agenda is wrong and counter-productive to the legitimate reform of the criminal justice system and bonds,” he expressed. He cited the release last week of David Cruz. Inmate Cruz is charged with murder and was released on a personal recognizance bond because of concerns about COVID-19.

“The last thing our community needs are decisions that further exacerbate public anxiety and risk to the people we serve,” Chief Acevedo concluded. “Releases of persons charged with high-level offenses place the community in grave danger and must be prevented. Violent and habitual offenders (especially burglars) need to remain in quarantine in jail.”

Acevedo told Breitbart Texas that 14 police officers under his command tested positive for the Coronavirus as of Wednesday. He said two of the officers required hospitalization — one of those recovered, the more recent case is in stable condition.

“One of my officers who initially tested positive for the virus has recently been cleared to return to work,” the chief said. “That is good news.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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