Crime Stoppers Slams One Out of the Park at Annual Gala
Crime Stoppers of Houston Slams One Out of the Park at Annual Gala – Over $1,355,000 Raised for Crime Solving and Prevention Programs
A Historic Evening ‘On the Field’ Honors Houston Leaders, Remembers Crime Victims and Calls for Community to Unite to Fight Crime
HOUSTON (November 18, 2022) – Crime Stoppers of Houston’s ‘Leading the Way to a Safer Houston’ Annual Gala, chaired by Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, was held on November 13, 2022 on the field at Minute Maid Park and raised a record-setting over $1,355,000 for crime prevention programs and critically-needed victim services. This memorable event brought together 500 generous supporters, courageous victims of crime, devoted community advocates, elected officials and law enforcement from across Texas for a moving evening that honored Houston leaders, remembered innocent lives lost to senseless violence, and called for communities to come together and unite with Crime Stoppers in making Houston a safer place for all.
“During a time when we all agree crime is the number one issue in Houston, we look forward to working with all community members and all community leaders on solutions. Public safety must be the place where partnerships begin and politics ends. For the sake of all who call Houston home, we are committed to doing our part and are thankful for the growing community behind us.” said Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious and Gala Co-Chair Sheridan Williams
As guests stepped on the field at Minute Maid Park, the Home of World Champions, they were met with many surprises – a thrilling World Series Championship video, a chance to take a photo with the World Series Trophy, a fun #UnitedforPublicSafety photo station and much more. The lively cocktail reception, with décor designed by Richard Flowers at The Events Company reflected the uniqueness of the evening.
Once at their seats, the program kicked off with a compelling welcome message from Houston Media Icon and longtime Crime Stoppers supporter Dave Ward. Immediately following Dave, a group of Crime Stoppers’ children, whose mothers work at the organization, took to the stage to introduce mistress of ceremonies AT&T SportsNet and Astros sideline reporter Julia Morales. The celebration continued with remarks from supporters Jim and Whitney Crane who welcomed the crowd and shared their commitment for Crime Stoppers and the need for all of us to make the safety of Houston a priority.
Committed to public safety, gala co-chair Sheridan Williams, who has made it her personal mission to help victims of violent crime, took to the stage to address the audience. Sheridan delivered a heart-felt and important message about the need for the community to come together and was joined by Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner to honor three police officers recently involved in a shoot-out. Sheridan then continued with the honoring of Professional Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, United States Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Jim McIngvale, Mattress Mack. The honorees have a history of supporting Houston and Crime Stoppers but this year, have all risen to do so much more. All three mentioned the need for the community to come together to address crime and Jim McIngvale closed the comments with a call to do “what’s right” and made a historic and emotional gift of $300,000 to the organization.
After dinner, Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious offered a powerful delivery that touched on overcoming adversity and the work of Crime Stoppers, followed by remarks from Crime Stoppers Chairman of the Board Justin Vickrey.
Crime Stoppers Director of Victim Services Andy Kahan joined Rania to facilitate a conversation with surviving family members, Aimee Castillo and Glinda Martin, Lourdes Medina and Bob Nuelle who joined to courageously share their stories:
– Aimee Castillo and Glinda Martin, Aimee is the sister and Glinda is the mother of Joshua Sandoval who was murdered during a home-invasion robbery.
– Lourdes Medina, daughter of Martha Medina. Martha was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother who was tragically killed during an attempted robbery while getting breakfast for her family
– Bob Nuelle, father of Elizabeth Barraza, who was murdered in her own driveway while setting up for a garage sale.
The Fireside Chat with the victim families concluded with a video in memory of lives cut short allegedly by defendants released on multiple felony bonds, felony pr bonds, and/or bond forfeiture. Victim families were recognized on stage as their loved ones’ photo was shown.
The evening closed with an exciting “Last Paddle Standing” led by gala co-chair John Eddie Williams, who was joined on stage by Jim and Whitney Crane, Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, and Houston Astros Executive Director Paula Harris. Zadok Jewelers made a generous donation of two gift cards that were bid on by the audience. In close, Jim and Whitney Crane promised to match the generous and historic gift from Jim McIngvale causing this evening to the be most money raised for the organization in its 42-year history.
Sunday’s celebration was supported by many individuals, community partners and generous underwriters, including Legacy Leader sponsors Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, The Astros Foundation – Jim and Whitney Crane, Jim and Carole Walter Looke, Russell and Glenda Gordy; Safety Champions Brigitte Kalai, Alicia Smith, and Hallie Vanderhider; Safety Trailblazers Hildebrand Fund; and Community Front-Runners Clear Channel Outdoor, Faust Family, Tama Lundquist and Dr. Peter Farrell, Jordan Seff, Jennifer Hohman, and Zadok Jewelers.
Additional guests included Paula Harris, Dror and Helen Zadok, Jonathan Zadok, Margaret Alkek Williams, Susan Boggio, Rachel Bagwell, Dancie Ware, Jim Ware, Laura Ward, Akash Patel, Cathy and John Crapitto, Travis Dorroh, Krislyn Vickrey, Logan Leal Dresser, Anna Reger, Jill and Charlie Talisman, Hazem Ahmed, Lawrence and Linda Levy, Matt Mackey, Michelle and Mike Heinz, Shana Jones, Nancy and Don Woo, Oscar Martinez, Scott and Lindsay Aronstein, Tena and Tyson Faust, Amy Leibman, Vivian King, Chris Massey, Trip McIngvale, Genny and John McIntyre, Patricia and Tom Ritter, Tissy and Rusty Hardin, Jay Ziedman, Franco Valobra, Vicki Rizzo, Dr. Richard Stasney, Kathryn Stasney Childers, Jeff Stearns, Sean Stewart, Carvana Cloud, Sonya and Jeff Vaden, Andy Allen, Wendy Baimbridge, Ryan Patrick, Darcel and Fenner Weller, and many others.
Leaders from the city, county and state were all involved in the nonpartisan event. Notable guests include Senator Joan Huffman, Senator John Whitmire, State Representative Ann Johnson, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Houston City Council Members Amy Peck, Mike Knox, Mary Nan Huffman, and Abbie Kamin, Harris County Constable Precinct One Alan Rosen, Metro Police Department Chief Vera Bumpers, Bellaire Police Department Chief Onesimo Lopez, and Katy Police Department Chief Noe Diaz.
If you were not able to attend, you may still support the Crime Stoppers mission online here: https://fundraise.givesmart.com/f/3u1w/n?vid=sh9l6
Visit www.crime-stoppers.org for additional information on Crime Stopper’s programs, resources and events.
Our Response to the False Reports of Noncooperation
Response from Justin Vickrey, Chairman, Crime Stoppers of Houston
As Chairman of Crime Stoppers of Houston’s board of directors, I’ve been reflecting on the problems at hand with rampant violent crime going unfettered in Harris County and we are once again finding ourselves providing comment on baseless attacks derived in political theater. Crime Stoppers of Houston (CSoH) has stayed consistent in its mission for 42 years. What has changed is the current political environment and recent efforts to politicize crime. As the election season comes upon us and crime remains the #1 issue, we are left wondering like everyone else when the focus will be on crime rather than Crime Stoppers.
We have heard that crime is not very bad, and Houston is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the per capita murder rate. Tell that to the 1,880 murder victims and their families over the last 3-1/2 years alone. Of those, there is immense agony among families of 181 victims who know their loved one would still be here had the repeat violent felony offender who murdered them was held accountable as a danger to society and detained. The 207 victims killed this year equates to 355 victims by year-end if this awful trend does not cease and would be a 5% increase over 2021. The pain these poor families have had to endure, is only exacerbated by seeing these perpetrators free without any threat of justice for four plus years due to the overwhelming criminal court backlog.
Earlier this year, CSoH was made aware of two targeted pieces being written against the organization, which we were told would be used against us in Commissioners Court. Even though CSoH gave the reporters an abundance of information and attention, which took valuable time away from our mission, the plan unfolded like clockwork with the New York Times and Houston Chronicle releasing essentially the same pieces within hours of each other on the same exact day.
This was followed by a call from Commissioner Ellis to “audit Crime Stoppers” dating back “ten years.” Harris County Auditor’s Office (HCAO) reached out to CSoH shortly thereafter and let us know they are an impartial party to the audit process. They shared that the ten-year request was not reasonable and we were feeling the ramifications of the political climate. We were then told we would have to give permission for the audit and that it should be limited to our four-year record retention policy. CSoH pulled documents on all gifts from Harris County during that four-year period and not one had a right to audit clause.
Regardless, as good partners, CSoH gave the HCAO a full book of requested information and had multiple calls and emails with them. Our most recent meeting was on August 31st to discuss their “initial draft” of the audit. They let us know their only suggestion to Commissioners Court was the county has been inconsistent with its grant documents and a right to audit clause should be included on all grant documents moving forward, not just CSoH. While we still had no obligation to proceed, CSoH was willing to provide additional supporting information once we were made aware sensitive items such as our account numbers could be redacted. The HCAO committed to an extension in late October, the report would be clearly shared in draft form with the Commissioners, and well noted the final version would be forthcoming. They thanked us and stated they looked forward to wrapping up the final report once everything was received.
Less than two weeks later, rather than tabling any discussion on an incomplete 17-page report, it was used as another excuse to attack yesterday even though it showed absolutely no issues with CSoH.
Through the entire process, we were operating under their own repeated statements that the HCAO was impartial and not there to serve any political agenda of Commissioners Court. Clearly, the recent Houston Chronicle story indicates the commitment to impartiality by the HCAO was not honored through their participation in an interview with the same reporter that wrote one of the previously targeted pieces. It appears this entire process was nothing short of an act in political theater that we have no interest in participating in.
CSoH undergoes an independent audit every year by one of the most respected non-profit CPA firms in the U.S. The requirement for CPA firms to report every single detailed note in an audit, both good and bad, is extraordinarily high. As an open book, these reports live on our website along with our IRS Form 990.
Our CEO has been unfairly targeted. The attention to her salary is one thing, but the repeated attacks against her, such as having people take photos of her home and including them in online stories, are actions that are dangerously motivated. It’s inexcusable. Regarding her pay, Rania has served the organization above and beyond these past 16-years, with the last 9-1/2 leading our staff. She has expanded all programming including prevention, helped build and fully fund the first Crime Stoppers headquarters anywhere in the world, and implemented a mobile app for tips available in over 20 languages. Rania and her team have created a system to train an entire state on school safety while increasing public safety conversations throughout. In addition to holding a master’s degree and juris doctorate, her role is a demanding one often requiring her time well past the typical 8-5 work schedule 7 days a week.
The focus and comparison on her salary misrepresents the facts and omits several others. Her salary, as determined by the Board of Directors, is well within the norms of nonprofit CEOs (which has been purposefully left out of this repeated reporting). Misrepresenting her salary while comparing it to the base salary of elected officials is another strategic move. Rania does not have a security detail, driver, or the very healthy 225% pension match Harris County employees receive. That said, should one want to review what Harris County employees make, you’ll find governmental salaries, some of whom are in a supportive position rather than leadership, make up to $100,000 more per year in base salary alone (without benefits) than Rania’s total compensation with benefits.
Additionally, the Houston Chronicle reporter covering CSoH, when sitting with Rania and reviewing her long-time history with the organization, dismissed her commitment, diminished her value and stated she could take a $10 per hour internship since her husband is a wealthy doctor (referring to her first position with CSoH). This sexist and misogynistic statement has no place in this day and time, let alone from a reporter tasked with writing an “objective” story on CSoH.
The Houston Chronicle has a history of writing stories pertaining to CSoH without our involvement. Rania was asked for comment via email less than one hour before yesterday’s piece was released. The reporter’s story had clearly already been written with no interest in what we had to say to counter the narrative.
The Conflation of Bond Reform
As a reminder, CSoH has always supported misdemeanor bond reform since the beginning. We, like most other Houston leaders, have simply been against the repeated release of violent repeat felony suspects. The application of the ideals of misdemeanor bond reform to violent felony cases is a major issue ravaging our great city. To see all those who also agree with us, go to https://crime-stoppers.org/standingforpublicsafety (#standingforpublicsafety)
The Real Story
If you speak up with facts that are antithetical to what some in county leadership profess, you will likely be targeted and attacked. That should be alarming for everyone reading this. We understand the political season has been ramping up for months now, but crime is the number one issue and targeting those who are working hard to reduce crime is not a winning strategy. Those trying to silence CSoH, wear down our CEO and staff, or hurt our partnerships are failing. For the sake of the community we all claim to serve, please close the curtain on the political theater and let’s get to work on solving these major crime problems at hand.
As for victims, partners, donors, or community members who have any questions on the latest story or any other story on CSoH, we are all here personally to answer them. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crime Stoppers’ First-Ever State of Public Safety Event Featured Powerful Statements, Impassioned Pleas for Action, and the Roll-Out of the New “Houston Crime Index”
HOUSTON (June 22, 2022) – The region’s top law enforcement leaders – including Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Houston Police Department Executive Chief Matt Slinkard, and three of the area’s eight elected constables – joined Crime Stoppers of Houston, State Senator John Whitmire, local business icon Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, and the family of slain nine-year-old Arlene Alvarez this morning in a bipartisan appeal for unity and action fighting violent crime in our area.
Gathering under the auspices of Crime Stoppers’ first-ever State of Public Safety press conference, the hour-long event featured a wide-ranging discussion on the effects of violent crime and some of the causes of the current issues – including discretionary felony bond reforms where repeat violent offenders are released into the community, gun violence, and case backlog.
“Public safety is important to everyone in this, or any, community – and Crime Stoppers of Houston has been supporting local law enforcement for over 40 years,” said Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious. “This work has arguably never been more important, and speaking for our entire team we are all in – committed to working with the law enforcement leaders with us today, and those who could not be here, on this vital public safety mission.”
Mankarious noted that, just over the last nine years, the organization had assisted over 170 different law enforcement agencies in solving over 4,000 crimes.
The day’s most somber notes were sounded by Crime Stoppers’ Director of Victim Services and Advocacy Andy Kahan, who noted the overflowing attendance he is now seeing – for the first time in 20 years – at the Parents of Murdered Children meetings hosted monthly at Crime Stoppers. Kahan also referenced the 175 cases he has documented since 2018 of people murdered by defendants releases on multiple bonds, PR bonds or bond forfeiture.
“If we do not come together as a community to fight violent crime, we will not have a community,” said Senator John Whitmire. “Every elected official at every level has to recognize we have a problem – you can’t solve a problem if you won’t admit we have one. We have a problem in Houston – and the citizens know it. The public is demanding us coming together, and going to work, and quit the political games.”
“The impressive showing here today speaks to the fact that Crime Stoppers is a part of the solution to violent crime,” added Harris County Sherriff Ed Gonzalez. “We’re all here because they’ve been a trusted crime-fighting partner in our community for more than 40 years – providing valuable tips that lead to the arrest of serious offenders, and also supporting families and victims of violent crime.”
Today’s event also featured the roll-out of a new “Houston Crime Index,” which publishes crime data under the Crime Stoppers’ recently created Glenda Gordy Research Center. The first phase of this new Index was announced today and starting this Fall will be updated monthly. The crime data shared today showed an increase in children killed due to gun violence, decreases in sexual and homicide offenses while aggravated assaults levels were relatively unchanged. View in full at www.crime-stoppers.org/the-glenda-gordy-research-center.
The unified show of support ended with powerful words of encouragement and call for action from local business icon Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale: “Why can’t Harris County be the safest County in Texas versus the deadliest? In Houston and Texas we do things big. We thought big for 150 years. Houston put a man on the moon, why can’t we stop crime? I think that every neighborhood needs to be the safest neighborhood in Houston… so we need to call on everybody to help make Harris County the safest County in the Country.”
- Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious
- Crime Stoppers Director of Victim Services Andy Kahan
- Crime Stoppers Director of Safe Community Institute Sydney Zuiker
- State Senator John Whitmire
- Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg
- “Mattress Mack” Jim McIngvale
- Houston Police Department Executive Chief Matt Slinkard
- Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez
- Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen
- Houston Police Officer’s Union President Doug Griffith
- Tony Leal of PPI Security, former Chief of the Texas Rangers
- Family of Slain 9 Year-Old Arlene Alvarez – Mother Gwen Alvarez, Father Armando Alvarez and Aunt April Aguirre
- Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman
- Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap
- Ray Hunt, Houston Police Officer’s Union Executive Director
- Crime Stoppers Board Members Sheridan Williams, Jennifer Hohman, Justin Vickrey, Hazem Ahmed,
- Maha Khan, Ricardo Nazario, Beth Arlington and Jonathan Zadok.
- Community Volunteer Genny McIntyre
- Dr. Sherif Zaafran with US Anesthesia Partners
- Tena Faust and Tama Lundquist with Houston PetSet
- Amy Smith, Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
For more information about Crime Stoppers of Houston and crime prevention programs, visit www.crime-stoppers.org.
As Expected: The Politicization of Crime Targets Crime Stoppers of Houston. Our Response.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2022
On Thursday, April 21, 2022, Crime Stoppers of Houston (CSoH) CEO welcomed Senator John Cornyn (R) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D) to the Dave Ward Crime Stoppers of Houston building to address bipartisan efforts that seek to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking against women and hear more of these efforts to protect our citizens. But during that meeting, CSoH was bombarded by multiple coordinated stories rooted in partisan noise.
For Over 40 Years
Let’s begin with the basic fact that for over 40 years, CSoH has stayed true to its mission to solve and prevent crime in partnership with citizens, media and the criminal justice system. During this time, we have studied crime trends and issues, identifying points of concern for the community, listened to the cries of victims and worked hard to offer solutions. We have never deviated from the mission and have, and continue to build solutions with and for all.
The Politicization of Crime
Sadly, community safety is no longer a common goal. We are in election year and a season where crime and “public safety” are now “political.” The goal of this new political machine is not to heed the concerns of the community, but to target anyone in its way. And it’s safe to say, for some, we have gotten in the “way”.
We saw signs of this last September when a series of papers and organizations started “investigating” CSoH. Individuals including several elected officials strategically began labeling CSoH as “partisan” and sharing negative pieces. We understood all this to be part of a bigger effort to discredit our organization and the voice of victims. We anticipated more would come.
Soon thereafter, we learned The Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, and The Marshall Project (whose avowed goal is to “abolish all prisons” https://www.themarshallproject.org/records/4766-prison-abolition) were all writing stories on CSoH at the same time. We knew where this was going and questioned where this was coming from but still worked for an honest representation.
We openly provided answers, upon answers to all. In addition to all the documentation that is public, we provided unfiltered access to our history, financials, full programing and programing statistics. Additionally, the CSoH CEO, Deputy Director, Direct of Communications, Bookkeeper, Chairman of the Board, Executive Committee Board Members and others took time to answer questions. Sadly, regardless of information provided – the authors (particularly with the NYT) either ignored or manipulated what was given. Comments from our Chairman and current board members were passed upon for statements from former board members. For those reasons and many others, it became clear early on, the authors had a predetermined conclusion and would write only what suited that conclusion.
While all of this proved to be a tremendous waste of valuable time for the CSoH team and community – and even now does not deserve our attention, we are providing comment for the sake of the thousands of victims, families, schools, neighborhoods, volunteers, donors and partners we serve.
- CSoH works with all and is funded by individuals, events, corporations, foundations, and government grants. The authors draw particular attention to the fact that CSoH received funds from the State of Texas (intentionally naming Governor Abbott). The truth is any funds that have been received by the State of Texas have been approved by both the House and Senate, made up of Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature. To say these gifts were “partisan” or tied to “partisan agreements” at the direction of one singular person, is false and misleading and only gains merit with those unfamiliar with the process.
- To date, CSoH received $4 million in State funding in 2017 thanks to a recommendation by Senator John Whitmire (D) who recognized how much the organization was doing for the community and observed that we had not gone to the State for funding before.
- We continue to receive funding to train all CS organizations across Texas in school safety. That funding is for work CSoH provides beyond and in addition to the services relied on by many in Harris County. Said another way: should that additional State funding stop, CSoH’s work in the Harris County area would remain untouched.
- Additionally, the Harris County District Attorney’s office has been supporting CSoH for decades – naming this current gift as anything partisan – is false.
- Beyond the Harris County District Attorney’ office, support (i.e. supplemental rewards, program funding and in-kind gifts) for CSoH has also come from the Mayor, local police departments, Harris County Commissioners and a long list of other partners.
- The authors of these latest pieces overlooked all the bipartisan support and work CSoH does and instead chose to cherry pick and misrepresent two gifts, solely in an effort to create a partisan and false narrative. This goes beyond sloppy reporting. It’s dishonest, manipulative and purpose driven.
- CSoH has received “probationary fees” since our inception in 1980s. Those placed on probation in Harris County may be ordered by a judge to pay a $50 fee to CSoH. Those fees, once received, are restricted to the CSoH Tip Rewards Program. That revenue makes up a small percentage of our overall budget. Those funds are not relied upon for organizational growth, staffing or staff recruitment or additional program development. To claim that we would find ourselves in distress should probationary fees decrease, is false – and we made that clear multiple times.
- Over nearly a decade, probationary fees to CSoH have trended down as the number of nonprofits a judge could give to has increased. The loss in fees, dating years now and including judges on both sides of the aisle, has not strained our relationship with the judiciary. Naturally fees declined in 2020 since for most of the year cases were not disposed of due to the pandemic.
- In 2019 – CSoH made the claim that the revolving door of criminal justice, specifically, the repeated releasing of violent felony defendants – was (and is) leading to an increase in violent crime. In order for CSoH to share this, court cases in which violent felony defendants are repeatedly released into the community – were and are highlighted. As citizens, we are allowed to look at outcomes that contribute to crime and we have been – as our mission would dictate. Through this process, CSoH remains committed to focusing on the cases, the victims and the impact – not the judges. In doing so, we have highlighted over 170 individuals who have been killed because of this revolving door. Despite all the facts provided and the very real crime wave Harris County is suffering, the authors singular focus was on the political party of the judges. For the record with the exception of one Judge recently appointed, the entire judiciary is Democrat. It’s shameful and another example of the coordinated effort to fit an agenda.
- Andy Kahan and Fox26 communicate these violent felony defendant cases through “Breaking Bond”. The authors tried to claim that Andy and Fox26’s Randy Wallace pick cases based on a judge’s giving of probationary fees. This is false as we stated in no uncertain terms. Cases are pulled based on the gravity of the case and victim. Additionally, neither Andy Kahan nor Randy Wallace have access to the probationary fees given to CSoH, nor have they ever requested to see it – all of which we made emphatically clear and all of which was ignored by the authors.
Rising Above the Noise
During a time when crime is out of control and public safety remains the number one issue for Houstonians and victims – the New York Times, the Marshall Project and The Houston Chronicle ignored the plight of those suffering to instead coordinate attacks against the organization and its CEO and staff as they tirelessly work for the safety of all.
While we look forward to working with all media now and in the future, our community would very much like The New York Times to worry about crime in New York. Houstonians will take care of crime in Houston. And as we continue working, we are thankful for those currently willing to rise above the noise and work together for the safety of all.
Sharing the support of our full community creates insurmountable holes in the claim that we are a partisan. Here are supportive comments on CSoH from some of our most prominent leaders:
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D) – who has a long-standing relationship working with CSoH to keep the community safe and who also joins us in our efforts to find wanted suspects. The Congresswoman recently said: “For decades, I’ve served communities in need and have always advocated for the safety of all. Crime Stoppers of Houston has been a long-time partner and ally in these efforts. Together, we listen, show up and stand up for all. I’m thankful for their 40 plus years of service and look forward to all that is ahead.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) – who continually works with CSoH to support victim families in Houston by finding wanted suspects; Mayor Turner included CSoH in his One Safe Houston Plan. He recently said “As Mayor, I am committed to the safety of all Houstonians and offer unwavering support for police, fire, and other first responders. Crime Stoppers is our partner in public safety. I commend the organization on its tireless work on behalf of victims, support of law enforcement and congratulate them for a job well done.”
Senator John Whitmire (D) – who inspired us to seek our first State grant and has worked with us on multiple public safety issues. He recently said:
“For over 40 years, I’ve been working to keep the people of Houston and Texas, safe. Having community engagement and partnership in Crime Stoppers of Houston through the nuances of criminal justice and criminal justice reform has been a support to me in my service as well as to all Houstonians who care about public safety. During this unique time, we look forward to doing more together.”
Chief Troy Finner (HPD Chief of Police) – who is one of the leading partners of Crime Stoppers of Houston recently said:
“As a native Houstonian and your Houston Police Chief, I stand proud to support Crime Stoppers of Houston. For over forty years, this group of civilians has worked to bridge gaps between communities and police – doing what it can to curb crime proactively while working with HPD and other law enforcement agencies to stop felony crime in its tracks. Any city is lucky to have an active Crime Stoppers. We are uniquely proud to host the largest in the country and look forward to doing more good, together.”
To read more endorsements go: https://crime-stoppers.org/standingforpublicsafety
Quotes in support of our findings that the repeated release of violent felony suspects is causing an increase in crime:
- Crime is up ladies and gentleman and it’s associated with bail—Kim Ogg DA to the Senate Criminal Jurisprudence Committee: March 18th, 2021
- The below statements are taken from a report by the District Attorney to Harris County Commissioners Court September 2, 2021 Ogg: Our findings show re-offending by criminal defendants who have been released on bail is up. Bond failures by bond condition violation reports are up. Violent offenses committed by defendants released on bail is up. Bail reform has not been confined to misdemeanors, but has been implemented, in practice for felony defendants at every level, even repeat violent offenders charged with some of Harris County’s most notorious and deadly crimes, including, but not limited to murders and capital murders. Bail reform as practiced in some Harris County District Courts, will continue to be a driving factor in the crime crisis gripping our community.
- Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Interview Fox News January 26th, 2021: “It’s inexcusable cutting lose dangerous repeat offenders on Bond”
- Mayor Turner Press Conference July 2nd 2021: “It needs to stop, we should not count on ankle monitors to track violent criminals. Let me also acknowledge that any person who is out for example on 7 felony bonds is unacceptable, And there’s no real justification for anyone to be out on 5,6,7 felony bonds. So let me just say that it needs to come to a stop. We’re all in this together”. Mayor Turner is discussing the murder of 24-year-old Mother Layla Steele and the shooting of her 1-year-old son by a habitual repeat violent offender on 7 felony bonds
- Senator Joan Huffman: “As a former prosecutor and criminal District Court Judge, it is absolutely appalling to see the release of habitual and violent offenders on small, and sometimes multiple bonds-we have failed our communities, we have failed the victims and it’s time to do something about it”: Fox New July 11th, 2021
- Constable Sherman Eagleton talking about the murder of 11-year-old Darius Dugas allegedly by a defendant on multiple felony bonds and who had violated his ankle monitor conditions repeatedly: “If the offender would have been in jail where he’s supposed to be, that baby would probably still be here”: Houston Chronicle March 27th, 2022
- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo new crime prevention plan unveiled several months ago by two press conferences stated her objective is to prioritize the arrests of repeat violent offenders in the communities. “By increasing policing in those areas, by working to take repeat, violent offenders off the streets in the targeted micro zones, we will be able to make a dent in our regions crime rate”: Houston Chronicle December 1st, 2021
- HPD Chief Troy Finner KPRC January 28th, 2022: “These violent individuals, I’m damn tired of it. We need to stand up as a community and do whatever we got to do. If that is to have more jail capacity. let’s get it done. No more excuses”
- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Houston Chronicle April 14, 2022: “And the truth is, too many people who should be behind bars are out reoffending”
- HPD Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite Houston Chronicle July 20th, 2021: “The problem is the criminal court backlog, and it has allowed sadly a lot of people who should not be on the streets to still be out there, people who are preying on the innocent”
Letter from Justin Vickrey, Chairman, Crime Stoppers of Houston
The current climate that allows for repeat violent felony offenders to be considered victims of the criminal justice system and the people whom they hurt or kill (the true victims in these horrible acts) to be completely disregarded is a travesty that must stop. In the words of our victim services director for Crime Stoppers of Houston (CSoH), Andy Kahan, “Crime victims are the only unwilling participants in the criminal justice system.” Truer words have never been said, Andy.
On Thursday, three articles attacking Crime Stoppers dropped within hours of each other. One from the New York Times and two from the Houston Chronicle. They should have covered their tracks better, as it was nothing short of a coordinated media hit to try and get us to stop talking about crime in our community and the excruciating number of victims left in its wake. The victims and victim families we support and citizens we strive so hard to protect come from all socioeconomic walks of life. These violent offenders don’t care whether their victims vote Democrat or Republican. They are indiscriminate of who they target and anyone can be a victim of crime at any moment. So why is wanting to keep repeat violent felony offenders that pose a threat to our community off our streets seen as a “right wing” ideology?
I talked to David Farenthold with the NYT for nearly 25 minutes, patiently answering nearly all of his questions. Rania, Nichole, Mimi, Tania, Cabell, and the rest of our CSoH team spent hours upon hours of sending David detailed answers to every single question and follow up question he had. He didn’t use any of it. Nothing. Why? Because our responses didn’t fit the narrative he had already formed before ever starting to write the article. His co-author, Keri Blakinger, is a writer for the Marshall Project. What do they believe is one of the solutions to our criminal justice system? To abolish prisons (https://www.themarshallproject.org/records/4766-prison-abolition). Sounds totally sane, right? No bias whatsoever.
The politicization of crime is nothing short of sickening. In full disclosure, I have been a member of CSoH’s board of directors since 2016, served on our executive committee since 2017, and have been chairman of the board since January 2021. I remember our board meeting in 2019 when we discussed felony bond reform for the first time and the dangers it posed. We publicly supported misdemeanor bond reform, but chose to be vocal and make a public stand against the continued release of repeat violent felony offenders.
Looking back three years later, I am proud of the decision our board made, but incredibly sad how many families have needlessly endured the loss of their loved ones. I believe Andy has tracked 170 people in Harris County who were murdered by people who were out on multiple violent felony bonds since 2019. They should all be with us today if the judges didn’t allow personal recognizance (free) or very low bonds to these violent offenders and the bail bondsmen didn’t accept payments as low as 2% or payment plans for their release rather than the standard 10%. This means on a $25,000 bond, some repeat violent felony offenders may pay as little as $500 to get out of jail. Not a very high bar to keep our community safe.
CSoH’s mission is to solve and prevent serious crime in the Greater Houston Area in partnership with citizens, media, and the criminal justice system. While CSoH’s claim to fame is the tip line anchorman Dave Ward professed for decades, our Safe School Institute, Safe Community programs, and research center have added immeasurably valuable help to our community and throughout the state of Texas. We have reached more than 1.2M students throughout Texas with vital information regarding online safety, bullying, dating violence, and a host of other important topics that are age appropriate.
The defamation contained in these articles is incredibly haphazard. What they neglect to mention about the money they claim we received from Governor Abbott is that it did not come from him directly, but was voted on by both sides of the Texas House and Senate in 2017 and passed unanimously without a single no vote. The money we have received from the state since has been strictly for the use of expanding our Safe School Institute throughout Texas after the Santa Fe school shooting in 2018.
Again, it was not until 2019 that we were made aware of the judges applying the misdemeanor bail reform to repeat violent felony offenders. To believe we only became vocal after we received money from the state two years prior to the problem ever revealing itself is wrong. To believe Andy’s and Fox26’s work on the Breaking Bond series highlighting the most egregious crimes that continues to bring awareness to shortcomings from the judges is done for nefarious purposes is disingenuous. All but one court has been highlighted on the segments and they’re all Democrat judges. Yes, the revenue we receive from the courts is down significantly from where it was several years ago, but what they don’t clearly state is how small of a percentage of our revenue it makes up, how our organization has grown beyond the tip line, or how many other organizations were added to the pool of options each judge can designate for the $50 probationary fee.
In regards to the building, like many non-profits who build their own office, we were blessed in raising half of what was needed in short order so we could start construction and borrowed the other half with a low interest loan from a local foundation. To claim we started “targeting” the judges due to the reduction in court revenue and the building put us in dire financial straits is absolutely defamatory. We were able to pay the note off thanks to so many of our wonderful supporters and we’re blessed to have a space that serves our diverse community.
Attacking Rania on a personal level (Chronicle) and bashing DA Kim Ogg for being a tough on crime “conservative Democrat” District Attorney is reprehensible. I have personally worked with Rania for many years now and am continually impressed by her leadership, dedication, and never-ending work-ethic. Day and night, weekday and weekend, she is there. She’s also sought to guide us through this current climate with grace and a commitment to the mission. As for DA Ogg, we are thankful for her years of support and prior leadership of CSoH. I am proud of our team at Crime Stoppers, the great work that we do, and incredibly thankful for the support we have received for years and continue to receive from most of our local, state, and federally elected officials across both sides of the political aisle.
There is much work to be done and there is far too much to lose if we stop now. Like many of you, Houston is my hometown and it concerns me deeply what our great city and region will look like for our children in the decades to come. If we do not have a fundamental course correction in how the criminal justice system puts the concerns of repeat violent felony offenders above the protection and safety of victims and our citizens, God help us all.
– Justin Vickrey, Chairman, Crime Stoppers of Houston
The Balanced Voice Podcast Interviews Matthew McConaughey
In this episode of The Balanced Voice Podcast, Matthew McConaughey challenges us to use life’s hardships to enact change in ourselves, impact the world around us, and propel our society forward. Today on the balanced voice we are thrilled to welcome Texas’s very own Matthew McConaughey. Matthew’s life motto “just keep livin’ is the cornerstone in all he does. From his foundation that aims to keep kids from choosing a life of crime by providing them with opportunities to lead healthy lives, to his ongoing dedication to The Lone Star State, He clearly defines his own non-negotiable. In today’s balanced conversation we ultimately answer this question:
“How do we live in the present, honor the past, and advocate for a better future?”
Watch on Facebook:
Listen on Spreaker.
Encouragement to Our Team:
Our team was honored to sit down with Matthew McConaughey. Matthew was gracious enough to offer words of encouragement to our entire team and members of our board as well as thank us for all we do.
We all know him as a movie star, but we learned from our conversation with him that he is thoughtful, wise, and encouraging in all he does. Thank you so much Matthew for spending time with us and for serving our great state of Texas tirelessly.
In his debut book ‘Greenlights’, Matthew bares it all as he walks the reader throughout his unique journey thus far. Personal photos and journal writing are shared along with lessons learned from his real experiences with family, love, fatherhood, and faith. Grab a copy of his book here: Greenlights.com
Just Keep Livin’
The Just Keep Livin Foundation was started by Matthew and Camila McConaughey and is dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future. In their programs, they encourage students to make positive life choices to improve their physical and mental health through exercise, teamwork, gratitude, nutrition and community service. Participating students have a safe place to enhance their lives with fitness coaches and health experts. The results have been incredible. Participants get in shape and gain confidence while also improving their grades, attendance and behavior. Friendships are built and fears are overcome. At their j.k. livin after school programs, kids learn self-reliance and get a healthy start today, so they can make a better tomorrow.
Visit our show notes: https://www.raniamankarious.com/post/ep-23-matthew-mcconaughey-greenlights