The Houston area is experiencing a rise in homicides involving road rage, domestic violence and other incidents this year, according to news reports and law enforcement authorities. Some of the blame has been placed on stress from the coronavirus pandemic.
Road rage spikes across Houston
The Daily News in Galveston reports that 2020 so far has seen a 30 percent increase in road rage incidents in Houston. Through October of 2020, the city recorded over 200 road rage incidents in which a person was shot, compared to 150 in the first 10 months of 2019. Six of this year’s road rage shootings led to death.
The Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police and other agencies plan to increase efforts to arrest reckless drivers whose driving habits can contribute to road rage. Also, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg says authorities will endeavor to seize the vehicles of those arrested in road rage cases in which a firearm is used.
Domestic assaults and homicides also increase
KTRK ABC 13 reports that Houston Police have noted a 4.5 percent increase in domestic assaults in 2020 compared to 2019, or about 1,300 more domestic assaults. It also reports that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has noted 28 family violence homicides so far in 2020 compared to 15 such homicides in 2019. Statistics also show 30 percent more violent assaults in general.
As for homicides in general, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo predicts Houston may have over 400 murders by this year’s end, which would be the most the city has seen since 1993, when 446 homicides were reported.
Nationwide, the homicide rate rose 42 percent in the summer and 34 percent in the fall of 2020 compared to the same seasons in 2019. Aggravated assaults increased 15 percent in the summer and 13 percent in the fall of 2020 compared to 2019, while gun assaults rose 15 percent in the summer and 16 percent in the fall, according to the criminal justice thinktank Council on Criminal Justice.
“Several evidence-based strategies are available to address the increase in violence, but subduing the COVID-19 pandemic also remains a necessary condition for reducing violence,” the council stated.
Why COVID-19 may be partly to blame for rise in violence
Houston Police Chief Acevedo attributed the rise in violent crimes, at least in part, to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s believed that stresses caused by high unemployment and sheltering in place have led to more crimes, including crimes of family violence, which rose in Houston 31 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
“We’re not psychologists here at the Houston police department,” Acevedo said, “but we do know that COVID has had an impact on the collective psyche of the American people. We know that we’ve seen a rise across the nation in violent crime. We know we’ve seen a rise in domestic violence.”
Noting recent rises in road rage, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said:
“This year has been very difficult, and there’s been a lot of loss both in our community and our nation, and we shouldn’t be compounding that suffering with unnecessary carnage on our roadways.”
District C Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin said earlier this year that increases in domestic violence during the pandemic have been “absolutely tragic.”
Health experts warn that the sheltering-in-place and self-quarantining spurred by the pandemic have led to more victims of domestic violence being confined with their abusers, which in turn has contributed to more domestic assaults.
While most victims of domestic violence are women, men can be victims of domestic violence, too. Early this month, Artuiro Magee, 34, was shot and killed outside his Harris County apartment in a dispute which was believed to have involved an ex-girlfriend.
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