Exploring Criminal Activity Shifts During Gentrification
The city of Houston is known for its warm weather, connection to the space industry, and vibrant food scene, and for those lucky enough to call this city home, it’s no wonder why more and more people continue to move to the Space City. Houston’s population is expected to rise by nearly 10% over the next few years, with some experts believing that there could be more than 8 million residents by 2028. This population boom has also led to gentrification of several of Houston’s neighborhoods. As gentrification happens, it often causes a shift in the types and amount of crime happening in these areas.
Houston’s Gentrifying Neighborhoods
Gentrification is when a neighborhood — often one that is older and has higher crime rates — undergoes a revitalization. This often means housing renovations, investing in infrastructure like parks and community gardens, and concerted efforts to lower crime. Investors tend to buy up vacant or dilapidated properties to renovate and turn them into rentals for students, artists, and young professionals. As neighborhoods are gentrified, it’s common for the racial makeup of the population to change, and demographics trend toward residents with higher educations and incomes.
Houston neighborhoods that have undergone gentrification efforts in recent years have been centered in the East End, including the Second Ward, Eastwood, and Lawndale. Other revitalization errors have been focused on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Wards, as well as Independence Heights and Sunnyside.
The Effect on Criminal Activity
Because gentrification usually happens in areas with higher crime rates, it’s logical that revitalization efforts would have an impact on the types and frequency of crimes. In general, neighborhoods undergoing gentrification see a reduction in the overall crime rates. This often happens as property values increase, more people move into the area, and the police presence increases.
It’s also common for the most common types of crime to change. For example, there may be fewer instances of drug and property crimes due to increased security measures and a higher level of community involvement. But other types of crimes can increase. Gentrified areas may see more nuisance complaints, and it’s not uncommon for there to be complaints related to conflict between established residents and those new to the community. In general, crimes are more likely to get reported in an area after gentrification than before, which can decrease overall crime rates as well.
However, it’s important to note that just because crime rates go down in a specific neighborhood after gentrification doesn’t mean the crime stopped happening. In many cases, the criminal activities just move to other neighborhoods where there is less vigilance and police presence.
Most Common Crimes in Houston
Like any large city, Houston sees a wide variety of crime, but there are some types that are more common than others. Simple assault and theft from a motor vehicle are the most common types of crime in Houston, collectively accounting for around 20% of all crimes in the city. Vandalism, intimidation, and other larceny charges round out the top 5. Other common crimes in Houston include aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, and burglary.
To understand the types of criminal charges common in Houston, it can help to look at trends over the last few years. Robbery and rape have been on a mostly decreasing trend, while instances of aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft have been rising. There has been an overall focus by the Houston Police and other law enforcement agencies to reduce overall crime in the city, with efforts specifically on reducing violent crime to make the city safer. This means that arrests may be more common, and criminal charges are being prosecuted aggressively.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged With a Crime
Being arrested and charged with a crime is scary, whether it’s your first time in a police car or you’ve had to deal with the criminal justice system before. It’s normal to be worried about what to say, what to do, and how to ensure you don’t accidentally harm your defense. Any time you are interacting with police, but especially if you are facing arrest, it’s important to cooperate by not resisting. However, this doesn’t mean answering questions or providing any information beyond your name and the contact information for your attorney.
You should have an attorney present during any questioning by police, both before and after you are officially charged. It’s common to believe that if you are innocent, you should have nothing to hide, but criminal cases are rarely this simple. Investigators are allowed to lie to you about evidence they have or things connected to the case, and it’s easy to accidentally say something that gives the prosecution more leverage. When you tell officers that you want to speak with an attorney, they can no longer question you until the attorney arrives.
Once there, your attorney will meet with you privately to find out what happened and explain what you’re being charged with. It’s crucial that you be 100 percent honest with your attorney. They are there to help, not to judge, and they need to know everything that happened leading up to and during the arrest to be able to represent you to the best of their abilities.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in the Houston area, Drehner Law can help. Our team is led by a defense attorney who is a former prosecutor, which means she also knows how the prosecution operates and has the experience necessary to help protect your rights and advocate for your interests. Call our office to find out who we can help you fight criminal charges, protect your future, and get back to your life and responsibilities.