Officials see connection between foreclosures and crime


by By Rucks Russell / 11 News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 20 at 2:56 PM

HOUSTON-Foreclosure hot spots may be turning into hot spots for crime.

Officials see connection between foreclosures and crime
November 18, 2008

When Uchenna Conley first moved into Fresno's Teal Run subdivision, she described the neighborhood as "close knit."

But ever since foreclosures came to Teal Run, things have changed.

"There have been break-ins. There has been vandalism," Conley said.

Conley said the escalating crime is keeping her on edge.

"I'm always very aware of my surroundings," she said.

But Conley isn't the only one making the connection between foreclosures and crime.

Tony Topping, an urban planner for Houston Councilmember Peter Brown, has spent months tallying up figures on the correlation.

"You can put it on the map, you can see what's happening," Topping said of his research. "(It's a) pretty good indication of where the hot spots are."

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Topping's crime map relies on figures from Houston's planning department and HPD.

He's plotted the more than 7,700 foreclosures across the city in the past year on the map, along with the rates of violent crime per square mile.

"It's clear there's a connection between foreclosures and increased violent crime," Brown said.

Law enforcement sees that connection firsthand.

"If foreclosures are increasing, you've got that potential, you'v e got that probability of crime increasing," Constable Victor Trevino said.

It doesn't take long for a home to slide into disarray after a foreclosure. Oftentimes, abandoned properties become a cancer for a neighborhood, diminishing the whole area's quality of life.

"Neighbors complain of someone doing drugs in there, gang activity, sexual assaults," Trevino said.

"This is clearly a red flag to our city government to take some action," Brown said.

Brown said he would like to see city officials negotiating with banks to keep people in their homes.

But for now, the downward spiral from auction block to city block will continue for many Houston neighborhoods.