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The Politicization of Crime: 4/1/22

As crime continues to be politicized, sadly Crime Stoppers is becoming a target. While none of this will deter us from being a voice for victims, when possible, we will share the attacks and our response. Read more below:

In 2019, Crime Stoppers of Houston began noticing a trend in which many of the defendants charged with murder were released on multiple felony bonds, person recognizance (PR) bonds, motion to revoke bond denied and bond forfeiture.

Since then, we have compiled a list of victims killed/murdered by defendants that had been released on the above at the time of their death.  Sadly, this list has grown to over 160 men, women and children who have lost their lives at the hands defendants that have shown time and time again that they are a direct threat to our community.  We are not talking about low level felony case or misdemeanor case or even drug related case.  We are talking about violent felonies as defined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting of 2019 that includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forceable rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults. All of which are arguably the most feared types of victimization in our society.

Crime Stoppers of Houston has consistently stated this as a crime crisis and public safety issue.  Unfortunately, there are forces in Harris County that have decided to make this a political issue and sought to discredit Crime Stoppers in the process.

The Texas Center for Justice & Equity issued a report claiming that Crime Stoppers is contributing to misinformation, false narratives, and bias in the media.  An important reminder that needs to be made is that Crime Stoppers only speaks to the media when asked.  This article seems to take issue with any organization that provides information regarding unadjudicated cases pointing to law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and Crime Stoppers.  We wonder who would be deemed by this organization to be a qualified speaker on the topic if not law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and Crime Stoppers.  Below is a list of this report’s misinformation and false narratives regarding Crime Stoppers of Houston:

  • Crime Stoppers lacks oversight and public accountability. This is a glaringly false claim.  Crime Stoppers has a board of directors and is required to provide annual reports to the Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Division.  Any false claims made by Crime Stoppers would make the organization subject to litigation.  Therefore, great care is taken to ensure that only clear and accurate information is released on all media platforms. 
  • Crime Stoppers “is financially incentivized to generate fear of crime, as the organization has a financial stake in churning people through the criminal legal system.” It states that Crime Stoppers receives .2427 percent of all court costs collected from convicted criminal defendants in addition to the payments and/or repayments received from convicted defendants on community supervision to pay rewards. The percentage referred to goes to a Crime Stoppers Assistance Fund that CJD uses to provide grants to Crime Stoppers sites.  Crime Stoppers of Houston does not receive any of these grant funds.  Crime Stoppers of Houston only receives the one-time payment of up to $50 from convicted defendants on community supervision.  We do not seek re-payment of rewards from convicted defendants.
  • In 2019, Crime Stoppers Houston reported a revenue of $114,616 from “court rewards” and $30,427 from “court administrative funds.” In 2020, these revenue streams dropped to $63,494 and $15,923 respectively. The “court administrative funds” referenced are not in addition to the “court rewards”.  It is a percentage of the “court rewards” that a Crime Stoppers site can use for tip line operations such as phone lines, after hour call center, and tip management software.  In 2019, that amount was 1% of all revenue.  In 2020, that amount was .4% of all revenue.
  • The report states, “The messaging from Crime Stoppers and the police union aligns with that of with District Attorney Kim Ogg (who served as Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston from 1997-2006) and her office, which has been clearly and consistently against pretrial release”. Crime Stoppers of Houston has never been opposed to pretrial release for non-violent or misdemeanor offenses. The only cases that Crime Stoppers of Houston has voiced opposition to pretrial release was for violent offenders that have multiple unrelated violent charges.
  • The report cites information from a blog “Why we’re no longer naming suspects in minor crime stories”.  We find it interesting that this report seemingly targets Crime Stoppers for focusing on the bond issue related to minor crimes. However, Crime Stoppers has consistently discussed this issue as it relates to violent felony cases.  
  • The report states “Bond reform was meant to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants. The misdemeanor bond reforms implemented in Harris County aimed to correct the unconstitutional, wealth-based discrimination inherent in the monetary bond system.” Crime Stoppers of Houston supports the constitutional rights of criminal defendants. Our issue has been with what appears to be the implementation of the misdemeanor reform in violent felony cases.  We would like to see a scenario where a judge can use discretion, utilize risk assessments, and factor in a defendant’s previous convictions when determining bond for violent cases.  The TJCE’s March 2017 report “Pretrial Practices in Texas” supports risk assessments and sites they are a valuable tool and “is fairer for defendants”. 
  • The report states “In covering bond reform, the media frequently cherry-pick extreme stories in order to link bond reform to bad outcomes.” Their case study on the Caitlynne Guajardo case states, “In consistently referring to accused defendants as “criminals,” this article conflates arrest with guilt.  The suspect, Caitlynne’s estranged husband, confessed to stabbing her and intentionally stabbing her in the stomach to kill their unborn child.  In another case study, the Rosalie Cook case, the report states,
    “Describing defendants as “criminals” conceals the reality that they have not been convicted of a crime, and it promotes the idea that legally innocent people deserve pretrial punishment.” It further takes issue with the term habitual, or career criminal and the suspect Randy Lewis’ rap sheet was cited in an article without clarification if they were convicted or not.”  According to court records, Randy Lewis had been convicted of more than 50 different criminal offenses. 

Posted by on 1 Apr 2022