There was a new tool used in court to help get two violent street gangs out of a southwest Houston neighborhood this week.
That tool was the Harris County Assistant Attorney contract program.
It allows local management districts to pay the County Attorney’s office for its services to address quality of life issues.
Ryan came up with the attorney for hire program after county budget cuts.
I’m told in Bray’s Oaks they used the program to tackle the gang problem.
County Attorney Vince Ryan says a good guess for the cost of retaining an attorney from his office on a case like that was anywhere from $100,000 to $120,000.
A contract attorney along with a staff attorney from Harris County were successful in getting a permanent injunction banning members of the Bloods and Crops from Bray’s Oaks.
Here’s more about the county program:
County Attorney Vince Ryan worked with various management districts to create a program for the districts to provide funding for Harris County to hire attorneys to work with those management districts on quality of life issues.
Under Texas Law the County may enter into contracts with other governmental entities such as management districts or nonprofit corporations such as property owners association for these organizations to provide funding to hire additional assistant county attorneys.
In July 2011 Brays Oaks Management District, Sharpstown Management District, and Spring Branch Management District entered into the first of these Assistant County Attorney Contracts. Senior Assistant County Attorney Laura Cahill who has been with the Office since July 1977 was the first attorney to serve under the County Attorney Contract Attorney Program.
The Assistant County Attorney working under this program focuses on neighborhood protection issues such as filing civil lawsuits to shut down businesses that operate outside the law or allow criminal acts to occur on their premises.
Management Districts are local governmental entities that exist to enhance the physical, social, and economic well- being of the communities in which they are located.
Districts work with local businesses and others on such matters as mobility and transportation planning, environmental and urban design, health and public safety initiatives, and business and economic development.
The contract with Brays Oaks Management District, Sharpstown Management District, and Spring Branch Management District was renewed in July 2012 with funds being added to provide an additional paralegal.
In February, 2013 a contract was signed with the International Management District, Montrose Management District, and the East Aldine Management District. Celena Vinson was appointed as a Contract Assistant County Attorney to work with these districts.
In the nearly two years the program has been in effect:
Three after-hours clubs have shut down.
The 51 owners of a gang-infested condominium complex are under a court order and receivership to make repairs to the property and take other steps to fight crime.
Two convenience stores where gang members congregated are under a court order to keep the gangs out.
A sexually oriented business is under a court order to comply with the law.
An apartment complex is under a court order to take steps to control crime.
Lawsuits are pending against two after-hours clubs and a motel.
David Hawes, the Executive Director for the Greater Sharpstown, Spring Branch and Brays Oaks Management Districts has praised the program as “a public partnership that works.” He said, “We all want to live in communities where businesses are in compliance with the law and are good neighbors.”