Houston crime including murder, robbery, burglary and auto theft rose during the first three months of the year, counter to a dramatic reduction in violent crime in recent years, police statistics reveal.
From January through March, five of the seven major crime categories increased compared to the same period in 2011, according to Houston Police Department statistics released Thursday.
Among the types of violent crime, murders increased 27 percent, robberies jumped 26 percent and aggravated assaults inched up 3 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to last year.
Property crimes also increased, with burglaries jumping 9 percent and auto theft 13 percent. Rapes decreased 5 percent, and thefts went down slightly.
HPD Chief Charles McClelland said the overall increase across all seven crime categories was 4 percent, adding that operations are under way to squelch crime in "hotspots."
"We had historic decreases in crime in 2011, and certainly we're going to try to obtain the same goals and results as we did," McClelland said.
Murders increased to 56 during the first quarter of this year, compared to 44 in the same period in 2011, but were still fewer than the 66 murders in the first three months of 2010, HPD officials noted.
One crime trends expert said the quarterly statistics bear watching, but noted that crime in Houston and nationwide remains at historic lows.
"It's the first quarter, so it's too early to get alarmed about the rise in the crime rate. I would say wait and see if the trend continues," said professor Clete Snell, who chairs the criminal justice department at the University of Houston-Downtown. "Overall, the crimes rate are still lower than they have been in decades - it could be minor blip."
Snell said an isolated situation could generate a spike in crime.
McClelland said many variables contribute to crime, adding that police are "only one spoke of the wheel" and the actions of other institutions including courts, prosecutors, parole officials, schools and churches have an effect on crime.
"People have to remember crime is a social problem," McClelland said. "It was not invented by the police nor will it be eliminated by the police. Crime can be from socio-economic conditions. It can be from opportunity. It can be from a number of things."