The Houston Police Department announced Monday the launch of the “March on Crime” initiative, set to begin in March. However, the project reportedly does not involve any actual marching or shows of force in the streets.
Rather, the focus is to raise awareness of crime prevention methods and to build relationships between citizens and the police. The campaign will also involve community programs, such as Crime Stoppers and Neighborhood Watch.
“The main focus of the campaign is crime prevention and implementation of proactive crime prevention efforts and measures aimed at the elimination of criminal incidents, rather than responding to them after they have occurred,” an HPD press release read, in part.
One of the focal points of the campaign will include efforts to enable non-violent offenders with mental illnesses to receive treatment, rather than jail time. At present, the largest mental health facility in the Houston area is the Harris County Jail.
Organizers hope efforts to get help to those in need would reduce both recidivism among offenders and prevent those offenders from escalating to more violent offenses in the future.
The program will also deal with allocating resources to an understaffed police department. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has requested an additional 2,000 officers, but Houston City Council has only promised to grow the department by 500 officers over the next five years.
Another aspect of the program involves efforts to work with local citizens and businesses to identify high-crime-risk areas. Patrol officers would reach out to community members on methods to prevent violent offenses in their specific jurisdictions.
“No one group can do it alone,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference Monday. “Neighbors need to help neighbors. Communities need to work with HPD and in turn HPD needs to work with those in our community.”