The Houston Police Officers’ Union has issued a stark warning to Houstonians, expressing deep concern over the state of public safety in the city amidst an ongoing officer shortage and perceived leniency towards suspected criminals.

Ray Hunt, the union’s executive director, highlighted a troubling trend while speaking with Fox News Digital on Saturday: an increasing number of individuals accused of serious crimes, including murder, walking free.

“Since COVID, I have never in my lifetime — and I’m a lifelong Houstonian — seen this many suspected murderers and capital murderers who are walking the streets of Houston out on multiple bonds,” he said. “These persons are not behind bars. They’re waiting on trial out on bond. … They’re out here doing the things that they only know how to do, which is stealing, shooting, robbing. … They’re gonna continue to commit crimes.”

“I would not let my wife or my kids walk down the streets of … Houston at midnight under any circumstances. It is not safe in major cities in 2024, and it’s not safe here when we’ve got that many murderers and capital murderers walking the streets,” Hunt added.

The union official’s comments echo similar concerns raised in other major cities nationwide, including Dallas.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot has come under fire for purportedly being soft on crime, even going so far as to implement a short-lived “theft amnesty” policy before rescinding the directive after blowback from the community. Additionally, the Dallas Police Department’s longstanding officer shortage of roughly 1,000 personnel has been blamed for the rampant criminal activity in Downtown Dallas.

Houston Police Officers’ Union president Douglas Griffith pointed to a shortage of officers dating back to a 2014 Sam Houston State University report. According to the report, Houston’s police force has been operating at a significant deficit, leaving it unable to address the city’s crime rates adequately. This lack of resources has created systemic errors and a backlog of cases for the department, as previously reported by DX.

“In 2014, it said if Houston was staffed like Chicago, we would have 9,602 sworn officers. At that time, we had about 5,600 – 4,000 short. Now we have just over 5,000. According to Texas Scorecard, we’ve already lost officers since then,” said Hunt, per Texas Scorecard.

Griffith also highlighted the strain on officers, noting that the shortage means many cases go uninvestigated due to the lack of personnel. He cited alarming statistics from the past, revealing thousands of suspended cases in various divisions, including burglary, theft, assault, and homicide.

“A survey of investigative division commanders revealed excessively high numbers of cases with leads that were not investigated in 2013 due to lack of personnel,” Hunt added, according to Texas Scorecard.

The union leaders also criticized the court system, arguing that lenient bond policies contribute to the problem.

“[The courts are] not doing their job … Their contention is that we can’t hold somebody. We have to give everybody a bond, yes, the first time. Once they violate that bond, they can be held in jail until they go to court again. And we get people on six, seven, eight, nine bonds at one time. And that’s a problem that we have to fix in the courts,” said Griffith.

As previously reported by DX, similar staffing shortages have been observed in other Texas cities, including Dallas and Austin. In Dallas, longer response times to 911 calls have been attributed to staffing deficits, while Austin has experienced delays in service following budget cuts prompted by the “Defund the Police” movement and subsequent response from city officials, according to Texas Scorecard.

“Who in the heck wants to be a police officer in 2024? When every single thing that they’re doing is going to be second-guessed by their body-worn camera that someone can watch three or four times to determine whether or not that officer made the right split-second decision,” said Hunt, per Texas Scorecard.