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Houston Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled the first phase of her plan to help address overcrowding in the city jail. The new approach diverts public intoxication cases from the jail to a Sobering Center to receive care from social service professionals. Located in north downtown Houston, minutes from the city jail and municipal courts, the Center is slated to open by the end of 2012 as part of a public/private partnership agreement with the Star of Hope.
“Incarcerating individuals whose only criminal behavior is public intoxication diverts law enforcement from more serious or life threatening crimes,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Sobering centers in other cities have proven to be time savers for patrol officers, allowing them to quickly return to their assigned neighborhoods to deal with more serious crimes.”
The Sobering Center will provide intoxicated individuals, who often pose a hazard to themselves as well as to the general public, an alternative to jail. The option will not be available to those caught driving drunk or with outstanding warrants. Those who choose to go to the Sobering Center will be observed and given necessary outpatient services to manage various intoxication levels. Once sober, detainees will be offered opportunities for long-term treatment with appropriate social service agencies. The activities of the Sobering Center will be fully consistent with medical professionals’ definition of the treatment of addiction as a disease, focusing on short-term treatment and intervention opportunities delivered by professionals.
The Center will be operated as a secular public/private partnership. The Houston Police Department (HPD), Health and Human Services and Houston Fire Departments(HFD) will provide city services at the site, and the Star of Hope will provide the professionals necessary to help with social services.
Currently, City of Houston spends about $25 million per year in jail operations, of which an estimated $4-6 million is attributed to public intoxication cases.
A 501(c)3 foundation will also be created to aid in future fundraising for operations and possible future expansion.
An advance funding request to complete construction drawings, including cost estimates for planning and detailing capital improvements, is expected to be on the City Council agenda on March 7.
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Houston Police Department Robbery Division investigators are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying several suspects believed responsible for at least 14 robberies of businesses throughout north and northeast Houston in the past 30 days.
The suspects are described only as two to three black males wearing hooded coats or jackets to cover their heads, designer jeans with white stiching on the back pocket and a long gold chain necklace. They are armed with a revolver with a red laser light attached. They are driving a maroon Lincoln and a gray or black Chevrolet Impala or Malibu. A surveillance video clip and photos of the suspects are attached to this release.
The suspects are linked to robberies at:
9421 Mesa – Subway and an EZ Loan Store
9415 Mesa – Game Stop
3415 Orlando – Boostmobil
5540 Airline – Boostmobil
6515 Tidwell – Cricket
3301 E. Tidwell – Cricket
7208 N. Shepherd – Cricket
8703 MLK – Cricket
2920 Tidwell – EZ Money
5910 Scott – Club Cellular
133 Little York – Gold Depot
2030 Little York – Paisono Cricker
In all cases, the suspects enter the business and pretend to be customers before robbing the business. Usually the suspect is alone, but is sometimes accompanied by one or two other suspects. The revolver with a red laser light is consistently used.
Anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of these suspects is asked to call the HPD Robbery Division at 713-308-0700 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.