As I’ve said many times, ensuring Houston is safe is the most important responsibility I have as mayor.
To that end, I have included five police cadet classes with 75 cadets each in all four of my budgets. I hired a proven crime fighter—Police Chief Art Acevedo—and I have worked to give him the resources he needs.
Perhaps the most important members of our community that benefit from strong law enforcement are our children.
One of the best ways to fight crime is to prevent it from ever happening. The youth programs offered by Chief Acevedo and the Houston Police Department (HPD) reach out to young Houstonians in a positive way and strengthen our community.
Chief Acevedo is a believer in “relational policing.” He knows that every time a police officer interacts with someone, he or she has the ability to establish a good relationship with that person. And when you establish that good relationship with a child, you can impact that child’s life forever.
Last year, Chief Acevedo revived the Greater Houston Police Activities League (GHPAL) after a 14 year absence. Its mission is to reduce juvenile crime and violence. The program connects police officers with young people 8 to 18 and mentors them through activities such as athletics, education, homework assistance, character-building lessons and more.
The last two years, GHPAL has held “field days,” where kids can come out and play games and engage with police officers in a positive way, building trust.
Local professional athletes spend time with the young people in GHPAL. Recently, Houston Rocket James Harden treated some to a shopping spree at Academy Sports and Outdoors.
The Houston Police Department has a number of other programs for young people:
- The Youth Police Advisory Council is made of up high school students from area schools. They meet five times during the school year with the Police Chief, other police officials, adult mentors and parents to discuss current and other issues of mutual interest. The members poll their peers before the meetings and gather relevant questions and issues to present at the meetings. The information gathered is then disseminated to their peers and schoolmates.
- Gang Resistance Education Awareness Training (G.R.E.A.T.) G.R.E.A.T. is a prevention program for middle school students. Police officers teach an anti-gang curriculum to students at targeted HISD middle schools. The goal of G.R.E.A.T. is to prevent youth crime, violence and gang involvement while developing a positive relationship among law enforcement, families and young people to create safer communities.
- The Teen and Police Service Academy’s (TAPS Academy) goal is to reduce the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement through learning, interaction and discussion between at-risk youth and the law enforcement personnel that serve their communities. Through this program, TAPS students and law enforcement personnel gain valuable insight about each other and the issues they face on a daily basis.
- The Boys and Girls Club After School Mentoring Program provides social, emotional and academic support by developing positive relationships with club members, ages 7-17. Police officers provide support through one-to-one and small group mentoring, as well as help to facilitate character building programs.
Keeping our children safe and out of criminal activity is vitally important. Let’s all work together to ensure the security of our community and our families.