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Collector Mike Sullivan says living, building and working in Houston has become increasingly expensive.

“The Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) certified the 2015 appraisal roll. Be on the lookout for tax bills in the mail, the first week of November,” said Mike Sullivan.

According to HCAD Chief Appraiser Sand Stiefer, the total taxable value for property in Harris County has increased 12% since last year. In 2014, the value was $349.9 billion. In 2015, that number climbed to $392.2 billion.

The average residential home tax bill will increase approximately $310.

Average Residential Home Appraised Values:

Average Home Value

Tax Bill

2014

$ 133,147

$3,243

2015

$ 149,867

$3,553

Residential properties, which are single family homes, make up 41 percent of the county’s tax base, apartments are 8 percent and commercial properties are approximately 25 percent.

Residential Properties             ↑ 15%

Commercial Properties           ↑ 12%

Apartments                             ↑ 19%

The Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office Property Tax Division maintains approximately 1.7 million tax accounts and collects property taxes for 71 taxing entities including Harris County. For the 2014 tax year, the Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office collected more than $5 billion in property taxes.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has released the 2015 Texas Gang Threat Assessment, which was developed to provide an extensive overview of gang activity in the state of Texas.

“Because of their propensity for violence and close associations with ruthless Mexican cartels, gangs are a serious threat to public safety in Texas. Our residents have a right to live free from fear and crime, and DPS remains steadfast in our mission to identify, dismantle and disrupt these criminal organizations,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “The 2015 Texas Gang Threat Assessment delivers valuable information about the gangs operating in our state and is a proven tool in law enforcement’s fight against these dangerous groups.”

The Texas Gang Threat Assessment was developed according to statute, which requires an annual report to be submitted to the governor and Texas Legislature assessing the threat posed by statewide criminal gangs. The report is based on the collaboration between multiple law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across the state and nation, whose contributions were essential in creating this comprehensive overview of gang activity in Texas.

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This assessment details the state’s systematic approach to evaluating and classifying gangs in order to identify which organizations represent the most substantial threat. The report estimates that current gang membership across the state may exceed 100,000 individuals.

Additional significant findings include:

·       Gangs continue to represent a significant public safety threat to Texas due to their propensity for violence and heightened level of criminal activity. Of the incarcerated gang members within Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons, more than 60 percent are serving a sentence for violent crimes, including robbery, homicide, and assault/terroristic threat.

·       The Tier 1 gangs in Texas for 2015 are Tango Blast and Tango cliques (estimated 15,000 members), Texas Syndicate (3,400 members), Texas Mexican Mafia (4,700 members), Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) (800 members), and Latin Kings (2,100 members). These groups pose the greatest gang threat to Texas due to their relationships with Mexican cartels, high levels of transnational criminal activity, level of violence, and overall statewide presence.

·       Gangs in Texas remain active in both human smuggling and human trafficking operations. Gang members associated with human smuggling have direct relationships with alien smuggling organizations and Mexican cartels. These organizations were involved in and profited from the recent influx of illegal aliens crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley in 2014. Gang members involved in human trafficking, including commercial sex trafficking and compelling prostitution of adults and minors, exploit their victims through force, fraud or coercion, including recruiting and grooming them with false promises of affection, employment, or a better life.

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The recent death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Daren Goforth has demonstrated that it is imperative that we as a community rise up in support of our local law enforcement. In spite of the uptick in violence against police officers, this is not a time to search for people to blame. This is a time to come together as a community and show our support for those heroes who put on a badge and protect us every day.

“Now especially, in the wake of the brutal murder of Deputy Goforth, we need to come together to pray and show our support for local law enforcement officers,” said County Judge Craig Doyal. “Every day they put on a uniform and head out to protect our local communities, they need to know we are thinking of them and praying for them and their families.”

From 5:15 to 6pm on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at the First Baptist Church in Conroe, Texas, local community, law enforcement, religious and government officials are asking for the community’s participation in blessing our local law enforcement. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will be the keynote speaker.

Titled the “Prayer for Police Community Event,” the public is invited to join us in praying for our police. Many of our local law enforcement officers will be present and department chaplains will be present to lead those present in prayer.

In response to the tragic shooting death of Deputy Goforth, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a press conference Friday that, “It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement. There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.” Our local leaders agree and in response to this call, they have organized this event.

“Right now, in this time, our officers are beginning to feel unsafe in their own communities,” stated District Attorney Brett Ligon. “I just want them to know we care, and the only way I can think of to do that is to pray for them, publicly. Those of us in law enforcement need to lean on our community for support right now. I know Montgomery County, and Montgomery County loves their local law enforcement. I’m asking for you to show them an outpouring of love at a time when they desperately need it.”

Local police chiefs, constables, county leaders and religious officials will all be present at the event. Immediately following the event, members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association will be present to pray over officers and their patrol cars in the church’s parking lot.

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The District Attorney’s Office is pleased to announce the addition of three new attorneys to their prosecutorial staff.

Neel Kapur is a graduate of the South Texas College of Law and DePaul University. He comes to us from the Hildalgo County District Attorney’s Office where was a misdemeanor prosecutor. He has prior clerkships with the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Taylor Stoehner completed an undergraduate degree in Spanish and her law degree at Texas Tech. She was the articles Editor of the Texas Tech Law Review, and a National Champion at the American Bar Association Arbitration Competition. She has a prior internship with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Philip Harris graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in political science and completed his law degree at the University of Texas. While he was in law school he was a moot court champion and Notes Editor for the Review of Litigation. He interned at the Williamson County District Attorney’s office and the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Dallas. He served as a law clerk for Judge Elsa Alcala at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a year before joining the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

“Our office continues to attract the best and the brightest law school graduates from all over the state and country,” stated District Attorney Brett Ligon. “Attorneys that want to experience working with some of the best lawyers in the field of prosecution want to come work here. Add the community features of high public safety, excellent schools and recreational assets like Lake Conroe and it’s no wonder that we always have more applications that openings. It’s nice to be able to hire the best of the best to serve the citizens of Montgomery County.”

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A small group of friends, family, and business associates came together Sunday night to honor one man in Houston.

The event hosted by Yvonne Guide and Hennessey was a toast to rapper Bun B at Straits restaurant in the City Center.

Several people spoke at the gathering expressing their appreciation for Bun’s hard work and humanity in the community.

Some the guests included RapALot founder James Prince, Queenie Freeman, Charles Adams, Anzel Jennings, Ronda Prince, and many others.

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Tropical Storm Erika destroyed Dominica washing homes, bridges, hospitals and PEOPLE away. Many lives were lost due to this devastation. The Dominica Houston Association 501C3 has had donation drives but is in dire need of getting the assistance to Dominica, Nature Island of the Caribbean through shipping companies. We have another drive today from 2p-9p at Main Lane Industries Warehouse 9201 Tavenor Ln. Houston, Texas. Thank you so much in advance for any efforts available.

Medical supplies needed:
Antiseptics
Alcohol
Plaster
Cotton
Iodine swabs
Tongue depressors
Scissors
Peroxide
Thermometer
Blood pressure kit
Lancets
Glucometers
Rehydration salts
Glucometer testing strips
Burn ointment
Penlights
Alcohol swabs
Medical kits
Pain killers

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The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the shooting death of a deputy at the Chevron station located at West Road and Telge Road.

Photos of the suspect and the suspect vehicle have been released by investigators with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect is described as a dark complexioned male, driving a red extended cab pick-up styled vehicle.

Anyone with information related to the suspect is asked to immediately contact the Harris County Sheriff’s Office at 713-755-8787.
For full details, view this message on the web.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has added Ernest Leroy Smith, 46, to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, and a cash reward up to $7,500 is now being offered for information leading to his capture. Smith, who is a sexually violent predator, removed his ankle monitor on Thursday and fled from a Houston halfway house. He is wanted for parole violation and is considered at high risk to reoffend. All tips are guaranteed to be anonymous.

Smith has ties to San Antonio and Paris, Texas. His criminal history includes aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and escape. In 1997, Smith was sentenced to 20 years for the aggravated sexual assault of a 5-year-old boy in Lamar County. In December 2014, Smith was required to participate in the civil commitment program. For more information or updates in the event of his arrest, please view his wanted bulletin at: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/Texas10MostWanted/fugitiveDetails.aspx?id=298.

Smith is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs approximately 225 pounds. He has multiple tattoos, including a marijuana leaf; a chain surrounded by an anchor with the words “Jesus my anchor and guide” on his left forearm; “Peanut” and Tinker Bell on right arm; “Betty Lou” on his right hand; and others. Smith also has scars on his left arm, right ankle, right leg and abdomen.

Texas Crime Stoppers, which is funded by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, offers cash rewards to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of one of the Texas 10 Most Wanted fugitives or sex offenders.

To be eligible for the cash rewards, there are five different ways to provide anonymous tips:

Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477).
Text the letters DPS – followed by your tip – to 274637 (CRIMES) from your cell phone.
Submit a web tip through the DPS website by selecting the fugitive you have information about, and then clicking on the link under their picture
Submit a Facebook tip at https://www.facebook.com/texas10mostwanted by clicking the “SUBMIT A TIP” link (under the “About” section).
Submit a tip through the DPS Mobile App. The app is currently available for iPhone users on the Apple App Store: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/texas-dps/id902092368?mt=8) and for Android users on Google Play: (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microassist.texasdps&hl=en).

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Charges have been filed against a third suspect in the fatal shooting of a man at 5338 Darling about 6:10 p.m. on January 9, 2015. 

The suspect, Xavier Francis (b/m, 27), is charged with murder in the 209th State District Court.

One suspect, Darrian Haywood (b/m, 25), is charged with murder in the 208th State District Court and was arrested on March 20.  The other suspect, Curtis Friday Odigie (b/m, 21), also charged with murder, was arrested on February 21.  All three suspects are accused in the killing of Then Huynh, 32.

Photos of all three suspects are attached to this news release.

HPD Homicide Division Sergeant M. A. Holbrook and Officer K. McDonald reported:

Mr. Huynh pulled up in front of his girlfriend’s condominium at the above address and began unloading groceries.  Witnesses then reported hearing screaming and a gunshot.  Huynh was found lying on the ground outside the residence.  He was then transported to Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

Two suspects were seen fleeing the scene in a gray or teal Series 7 BMW.
Further investigation identified Francis as being a suspect in this case and on Thursday (August 27), a murder charge was filed.  Francis is currently in federal prison serving a sentence for an unrelated crime.

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Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan working with the Texas Attorney General and City of Houston has obtained a temporary restraining order preventing a local convenience store from selling synthetic marijuana.

 

Ryan, the Texas Attorney General, and the City of Houston sued the store located at 2709 Broadway, after an investigation by the Houston Police Department’s Narcotics Division resulted in the purchase of a package of suspected synthetic marijuana—called Kush—on July 22. A subsequent inspection by HPD narcotics officers that same day found multiple packets of the same substance, as well as a hole in a back wall through which they suspect the clerk sold the product to customers outside the building. The clerk admitted selling 50 to 75 packages of Kush every day.

 
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Tests performed at the Houston Forensic Science Center on sample packets collected by the police officers found they contained Schedule I controlled substances, considered the most dangerous drugs. Under state and federal law, it is a crime to possess or distribute Schedule I drugs.

 

The temporary restraining order was issued by 151st State District Court Judge Michael Landrum on Wednesday.

 

The lawsuit claims that the defendants are violating the federal Deceptive Trade Practices Act because the packages were labeled “safe” and that the store is a “common nuisance” because of the illegal drugs sold there.

 

Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug, often manufactured overseas, that is marketed as a “safe” and “legal” alternative to marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but a dried leafy substance that is sprayed with powerful, added-in hallucinogenic chemicals that are dangerous and highly addictive to the user. The added chemicals are intended to mimic the biological effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

 

While the product may be labeled “not for human consumption,” that is exactly how it is intended to be used. Ingesting these substances can cause paranoia, psychotic episodes, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Persons who have ingested Kush have become violent and have suffered paralysis, brain damage, heart attacks and even death.

 

The next hearing on this lawsuit will be at 1:30 p.m. on September 3 in the 151st Court.

 

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) Board of Directors today announced approval of a new contract between METRO and the Transport Workers Union of America Local 260 and the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, which represent the majority of METRO’s bus and rail operators and mechanics.

The three-year pact provides wage increases, enhanced health care contributions, and revisions regarding qualifications and appointment of trustees to the employee health and welfare trust. The agreement was ratified by almost 90 percent of union members who voted.

METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia said, “I think this is a wonderful outcome. Ultimately we did the right thing and I feel great about it.”

METRO President & CEO Tom Lambert said he was very pleased with the ratification. “This is the first time in 10 years  that we have been able to reach  agreement on a new pact without an impasse or arbitration.”   

“The Transport Workers Union of America and TWU Local 260 reached an agreement after months of negotiations. We are pleased with the contract that was overwhelmingly ratified by the membership. TWU and Local 260 reached the agreement with Houston METRO with no give- backs,” said John Bland, Administrative Vice President of the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO.

The new contract includes:

A 2.25 percent wage increase retroactive to Aug.1, 2015.A 3 percent wage increase for each of the following two years.A hike in METRO’s monthly contribution to the Transport Workers – METRO Health and Welfare Trust to $1035 per eligible employee and retiree retroactive to Aug.1, 2015.Additional increases in METRO’s monthly contribution to the Transport Workers – METRO Health and Welfare Trust to $1,071 per eligible employee and retiree in 2016, and to $1,109 in 2017.Modifications to provisions reflecting that all trustees of the METRO Health and Welfare Trust will be appointed by the Union.