Chron Austin bureau: Crime up in Houston, down statewide

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On Thursday, the Chronicle posted the following news from the Austin bureau’s Lisa Sandberg:

Overall crime rates fell in Texas last year, although Houston’s rose slightly, marked by a spike in the number of homicides, state records indicate. The city’s overall crime rate rose 0.6 percent between 2005 and 2006.

Houston recorded 377 homicides last year, 13 percent more than in 2005 and the highest number since 1996, when 261 homicides were reported. Houston’s homicide rate, 18 per 100,000 people last year, was also the highest in a decade.

While it’s good that Chronicle crime reporters not posted to the newspaper’s main office are able to call an increase an increase (not alway the case at the 801 Texas Avenue mother ship), isn’t 377 homicides a larger number than 261 homicides? It would have been useful to report the last time that Houston exceeded last year’s homicide total.

Statewide, crime statistics showed improvement:

There were 1,385 homicides across Texas last year, 20 fewer than in 2005, a 3.3 percent drop. Reported rapes fell 3.8 percent between 2005 and 2006, to 8,407.

The state’s overall crime rate fell 5.3 percent between 2005 and 2006, though robbery rose 1.3 percent, to more than 37,000 reported incidents. The state’s violent crime rate fell 2.3 percent.

HPD had no comment for Ms. Sandberg at the time of the story:

HPD spokesman Victor Senties said his department needed to review the data before Police Chief Harold Hurtt would comment.

Is that code for, “Chief Hurtt has headed to Phoenix already for a long weekend?”

In any case, we’re sure that Mayor White’s PR machine will have a positive spin on these numbers ready soon.

PREVIOUSLY: Editorial LiveJournalists reject mayor’s spin on crime, Making sense of muffed crime reporting/editorializing, KHOU: Mayor slashes HPD manpower initiatives, Crime statistics continue to confuse Chron reporters, editors.

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