Criminal JusticeLocal NewsAmid Harris County Crime Trend Dispute and Reporting Delay, Sheriff Updates 2022 Data

The sheriff’s newly added data changes percentages of increase or decrease for some categories, but the year-to-date reports are preliminary and incomplete.
November 3, 2022
Following questions about a delay and errors in reporting crime to the state, this week, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) submitted preliminary crime data for the month of September to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last week, after Harris County Administrator David Berry announced violent crime had decreased compared to last year, The Texan first reported that the HCSO had not provided any September data to the state due to an unidentified technical issue. HCSO also acknowledged that there has been a separate technical issue interfering with the correct reporting of sex offenses, leading to only one rape being reported in July and zero in August.

An HCSO spokesperson confirmed to The Texan that the technical issue in rape reporting has not yet been corrected but the department expects the correction to be made by November 10.

In addition to reporting preliminary data for September, HCSO also revised upward numbers for previous months. In one example, the agency added 10 more rapes for February 2022, bringing the total for that month to 70.

According to law enforcement professionals, a lag in reporting for some criminal offenses is common and can result in a delay of months or even years.

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Eric Batton, executive director for the Harris County Deputies Association and former lieutenant over the HCSO Special Victims Unit, told The Texan that rapes and sexual assaults are notoriously underreported and require special handling.

“Victims are handled carefully since this is often a very traumatic experience,” said Batton. “There is a lengthier process for sexual offenses; rape kits must be processed, and the medical examiner must provide a report, and there can be a lengthy delay before reports reflect the incident.”

Reporting lags are also common for murders. The HCSO updated information to include 5 more murders for the month of July and 3 more in August.

In addition to reporting lags for several categories, HCSO only reports crime data processed by sheriff’s deputies and the county’s eight constables — not for the multiple other city, college, and school district law enforcement agencies. The agencies participating in the state’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) are only required to submit annual, not monthly, reports, further making year-to-date comparisons unreliable.

Despite the reporting lags and the fact that several categories of violent crime show a decrease in comparison with the same month last year, Texas UCR reports that overall crime for Harris County has increased an average of 5 percent over last year.

Crime in Harris County began to trend upward in 2019; homicides last year were 65 percent higher than in 2018.

Current UCR reports show a total of 436 reported murders in Harris County so far this year, down from last year’s 472 by the same date. As of October 30, the Medical Examiner’s Service had ruled that 577 deaths in Harris County were homicides, but not all of those will result in a reported murder.

After Berry’s announcement, County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s re-election campaign cited his statistics as proof that violent crime had decreased under her administration. On Tuesday night, the Harris County District Attorney’s office called for a retraction of Berry’s report as ‘erroneous.’

On request for comment, a spokesperson for the County Administrator’s Office responded by email, “We are working with the Sheriff’s Office to review the updated data and will, of course, take it into account.”

Voters have cited crime and public safety as a top concern in Harris County elections this year. Hidalgo is fending off a challenge from Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, who has swept endorsements from law enforcement organizations.

The county’s 68 judicial races have also drawn more attention than usual, with a vocal number of Democratic voters endorsing Republican candidates who have vowed to end lenient bail practices for repeat violent offenders.

A copy of the updated 2022 crime report, including September, can be found below.


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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.