Texas PD Working Through Sex Assault Case Backlog

Houston Police car | Image by Houston Public Media

The Houston Police Department recently provided an update on the more than 4,000 sex crimes in the city that were backlogged due to a “lack of personnel,” revealing that many of the sidelined cases had workable leads.

In February, The Dallas Express reported that HPD had discovered more than 264,000 crime cases, dating back as far as 2016, that had been erroneously suspended because of a lack of officers to work the cases. From that backlog of cases, 4,017 were identified as adult sexual assault crimes and were given priority, with additional officers assigned to follow up.

Mayor John Whitmire also established an external review committee to oversee the examination of suspended cases.

Of the sex crimes cases reviewed thus far, 900 contained workable leads that could have been followed up on at the time if the cases had not been erroneously suspended with the “lack of personnel” code. Police Chief Troy Finner said in February that the code should never have existed.

The department has reviewed 1,147 cases that included sexual assault DNA test kits, with 76 resulting in a CODIS hit, meaning that the “DNA profile from the sexual assault kit matches the DNA profile from a separate criminal offense or a known offender,” according to a statement from HPD. CODIS is the acronym for the Combined DNA Index System, the national DNA database maintained by the FBI.

In addition, all other Special Victims Division cases with DNA kits were sent for review, resulting in another 20 CODIS hits. The department said in its statement that investigators are following up on all of these cases.

In some cases, investigators have been unable to locate the victim. In 51 of the DNA match cases, the victims have declined to move forward, or a suspect has already been charged, according to ABC 13 KTRK. However, at least five new charges for family violence cases have been filed as a result of the CODIS hits.

In the wake of the revelation of the backlogged cases, two assistant police chiefs, Ernest Garcia and Kevin Deese, have been demoted, per KHOU 11. James Jones, the department’s policy officer, has submitted his resignation. 

At a press conference last week, Chief Finner highlighted the lack of personnel and resources that continue to hamper the department’s efforts. 

“We need resources. We need more officers, more investigators, more civilian staff to help us move forward,” Finner said, per ABC 13. “I want to be truthful to our community. We cannot — we don’t have the staff to — investigate each and every crime that’s reported in our city. However, we will investigate every violent crime against persons.”

Investigators are asking victims of these crimes to update their contact information by calling 713-308-1180 or emailing [email protected]

The Dallas Police Department is similarly facing a significant shortage in staffing, resulting in an extensive backlog of sexual assault cases, as highlighted in prior coverage by The Dallas Express.

Presently, DPD operates with roughly 3,000 officers, yet an analysis conducted by the City suggests that around 4,000 officers would be required to effectively decrease response times and adequately ensure public safety in a city the size of Dallas.

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