In a bid to address the growing concerns about crime in Houston, State Senator John Whitmire recently announced an ambitious plan to tackle the issue head-on: the deployment of state troopers.
Whitmire’s proposal has sparked debates among city leaders and community activists.
The controversial plan involves partnering with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to deploy 200 state troopers to assist in patrolling the city streets. The move comes as the Houston Police Department faces a shortage of officers, with over 300 officers lost in the past 25 years.
While Whitmire acknowledges the challenges faced by DPS in Austin, where a previous partnership dissolved amid controversial incidents, he remains optimistic that his proposed agreement would ensure local oversight of the troopers’ operations. He aims to focus troopers’ efforts on traffic patrols and warrant sweeps, tasks that would complement the Houston Police Department’s work.
“I’m not Gov. Abbott, I’m not the mayor of Austin. I have been in the Legislature long enough to know how the political scene works in Austin. I can handle the responsibility of telling the governor we’re going to do it the Houston way,” Whitmire said.
However, not everyone is convinced that more police, especially state troopers, are the ideal solution. Critics point to concerns over potential racial profiling, citing data that suggests DPS sweeps in Austin disproportionately targeted Black and Latino residents.
Whitmire added that his plan is not like what is happening in Austin or the border. He pointed to Dallas, where the mayor welcomed troopers to that city in 2019 after a spate of shootings. In seven weeks, troopers pulled over 12,500 people. Police said violent crime dropped by 29 percent, as reported by Houston Landing.
“After having been advised by Dallas’ current mayor how well it worked in Dallas to deal with the criminal hot spots, I think it is a temporary solution to our understaffing. If we would do a serious recruiting and add to the Houston Police Department’s numbers, we probably wouldn’t need the DPS, except for special events,” he said.
Political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus from the University of Houston sees Whitmire’s plan as a potentially winning political issue, as voters across all demographics rank crime as a major concern. However, there remains a risk of alienating liberal Democrats with this approach.
As the mayoral race looms, Houston residents eagerly await a comprehensive plan that addresses crime while also considering alternative strategies for community safety.