Art Acevedo has an entire police force at his command.
He still fell victim to a crime that remains unsolved.
The Houston Police Chief said his son’s bicycle was stolen last year from a rack at Harvard Elementary in the Heights, where Acevedo resides with his family. The bike was never found.
“It pissed me off,” he said.
Acevedo shared his personal crime story Monday during a town hall meeting at the Historic Heights Fire Station, where more than 100 business owners from the Heights and other parts of the city sounded off about their own experiences as victims. Many complained to the police chief about what they said is a recent uptick in building burglaries and vehicle break-ins in the Heights, Midtown and Montrose areas, along with an inadequate response from the Houston Police Department, Harris County prosecutors and judges who make it easy for repeat offenders to get out of jail and go back to stealing.
Bobby Heugel, co-owner of Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable, said the popular Heights restaurants have been burglarized a combined seven times in the last two months.
“It’s been an enormous problem,” he said. “The past three years have been something that we’ve never seen in this city before. It’s a whole other level.”
Acevedo acknowledged that burglaries have been a “tremendous challenge,” particularly in the Heights area, and said HPD needs to do more to combat them. He said he’s asked Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for increased patrol between 2-6 a.m., when most of the break-ins occur, and vowed that his officers would be more visible in vulnerable areas and more diligent in their investigations and interactions with citizens.
In response to criticisms that HPD detectives were not following up with victims and acting on tips provided to them, Acevedo asked those business owners to provide contact information to some of the 15 or so HPD officers who joined him at the town hall. Acevedo also provided his personal email address to those in attendance.
“Just know that we don’t always get it right, and we won’t always get it right because the human condition isn’t perfect,” Acevedo told the crowd. “But if we’re falling short, you’ve got to let us know.”
An email about the burglary problem sent to Acevedo from Glenn Clements Jr., the president of a real estate investment company with properties in the Heights, spurred the town hall. Clements said he was encouraged by the response from the police chief, who said he wanted to continue meeting with the business owners as they work to improve the issue.
Acevedo pointed out to the group that HPD had made 315 burglary-related arrests in its Central Division within the last three years. HPD Assistant Chief Pedro Lopez, who also spoke at the town hall, said the department had made about 10 burglary-related arrests in the area since Jan. 20.
Acevedo said HPD wants to improve its communication with citizens, too, by posting crime and arrest information on Nextdoor, the social media app catered to neighborhoods.
“I think he’s genuinely concerned and he’s going to try,” Clements said of Acevedo. “We’ll see what the efforts do.”
Nicole Bean, owner of Pizaro’s Pizza in the Montrose area, said she is not convinced that the crime problem will be solved. She argued with Acevedo after he encouraged the business owners to continue reporting crimes and following up with detectives, saying they already have done that but to no avail.
Bean said HPD’s message seemed like “fluff” but also described Monday’s experience as therapeutic.
“I’m glad that we can all band together and scream at the top of our lungs,” she said. “We need help.”
Damian Ogier, the new president of the Houston Heights Association, said the neighborhood organization was glad to help facilitate the conversation between HPD and the community. The HHA offered to host future town halls at the former fire station, located at 107 W. 12th St.
Acevedo won’t have to leave his own neighborhood to attend the future gatherings. He might even be able to ride his bike, assuming it isn’t stolen.
“Anytime that any member of our community gets impacted by crime, I take it personally, because ultimately I’m responsible for the safety of the people of Houston,” he said. “Then on top of that, it’s my own neighborhood that I live in. We all have to come together, and we the police have to do a better job.”