The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

February 2022
Across the nation, states, counties, and cities are reporting across-the-board increases in gun-related violent crime. And here in Harris County, we are not immune from this alarming national trend. Many factors are at play, including a lack of common sense gun laws that has led to unchecked weapons of war on our streets in the hands of people who should not have access to them. 
To fight gun violence in Harris County, we are investing in solutions that are both tough on crime and smart on crime. This week, we approved a new budget that invests $1.4 billion in justice and safety alone. This is the highest amount we’ve ever spent on public safety in County history. This budget ensures that we’re giving law enforcement the resources they need – like a raise for our Harris County sheriff’s deputies and deputy constables, more overtime for law enforcement, and higher salaries and staff for the District Attorney’s Office. But the budget also makes sure we are addressing long-standing issues at the core of the crime wave, through programs like our Community Violence Interruption Program, which zeroes in on gun violence by helping those most at risk of committing crimes to escape gangs and resolve neighborhood conflicts peacefully by providing caseworkers that help with services like mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, employment services, and mediation. Or like the Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART) program. Fewer than four percent of 911 calls are related to violent crime – HART teams of trained social workers and behavioral health and medical professionals provide support and services to residents experiencing homelessness, behavioral health issues, or social welfare concerns, freeing up police to focus on violent crime. HART begins operations with the Sheriff’s Office this Spring, and we anticipate building several teams throughout the county over time. Last week, we also kicked off the $50 million Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods program by tearing down a decrepit building that served as a haven for drug dealers and other criminal elements in Cypress Station. The prevention and neighborhood safety program targets neighborhoods with high rates of crime to improve visibility in residential areas, address long-standing blighted and abandoned structures, and implement other improvements shown to enhance public safety. 
These initiatives are not experiments. These are research-based methods that have a much greater success rate in ending cycles of violence than incarceration alone. Keeping communities safe doesn’t have to be all about law enforcement, or no law enforcement at all. We don’t have to choose – in Harris County, we know we must do both. We’re investing in our public safety AND in strategies that build up our communities, which is the smartest and most effective way to keep our residents safe.
Lina Hidalgo

County News


Community Covid Housing Program Pulls 7,000 Residents Out of Homelessness

Housing is health care and housing is a human right. And in Harris County, housing is a cause that we fight for together with our partners at the City, the Coalition for the Homeless, and an army of agencies that won’t rest until every person in our region has a home. In June 2020, Harris County established the Community Covid Housing Program with the goal of serving 5,000 people over two years through diversion, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, case management, and other services. Incredibly, the Program exceeded its goal in record time. Over 7,000 people were served in that time period and the coalition facilitated the removal of four homeless encampments, with 90% of those individuals now in permanent housing. Overall, through this partnership between the City and the County, we reduced homelessness by 1000 individuals, at the height of the pandemic. 
In January, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court committed American Rescue Plan funds toward Phase II of the Community Covid Housing Program, for a total investment of $35 million. We look forward to seeing the results of Phase II for so many of our most vulnerable residents.  

Resolution Urges Harris County Bail Board to Impose Minimum Bond Payment Requirements

When a bond is set for a suspect in a crime, they can approach a bail bond business to post the bond for them. However, Texas law does not require a minimum payment by the defendant before a bail bond company can post their bond and secure a defendant’s release from jail. Investigations conducted by stakeholders in the criminal justice system show that there are bail bondsmen in Harris County that do not collect the customary 10 percent to post bond. In fact, some collect as little as one percent of a bond set by a judicial officer, making it easier for dangerous and violent criminals to go free. Last week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved a resolution urging the Harris County Bail Bond Board, which has regulatory authority by the State of Texas to “supervise and regulate each phase of the bonding business in the county,” to take action and require a 10% minimum bond payment by defendants. Bondsmen accepting less than 10% of set bond for violent offenders put profits over the safety of our community. It must stop.

Second Round of Criminal Justice Grants Awarded to Help Reduce Crime

We know that to lower crime rates, community involvement is essential. Programs in vulnerable communities can make all the difference in preventing run-ins with the law, or stopping someone from getting arrested for the second or third time. The Justice of Administration’s Community Engagement Grants aim to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system, improve safety in Harris County communities, and decrease participants’ involvement with the criminal justice system. The grants provide funding to community programs that make all the difference in preventing at-risk individuals’ involvement in violent or criminal activity, diverting individuals from formal system involvement, reduce risk of reentry or re-involvement in the criminal justice system, and help break the cycle of violence.
This week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved a second round of Community Engagement Grants totaling $250,000 funded by the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge to three community organizations: Houston reVisionThe Center for Urban Transformation, and Tahirih Justice Center. This round of grants will extend from this month through February 2023. The first round of grants totaled $150,000 and were awarded to Tahirih Justice Center, Center for Urban Transformation, and The Beacon. Congratulations to these community organizations and thank you for your work keeping our communities safe!

Harris County Expands Lead Abatement and Prevention Program

In Harris County, 122,000 homes built prior to 1978 are potentially at risk for lead-based paint hazards. Children living below the poverty line – of which there are 19,000 in Harris County – have a higher probability of residing in these homes, which places them at higher risk of lead exposure, which has been shown to have enormous detrimental effects. 
This week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand the county’s Lead Abatement and Prevention Program (LAPP). The funds will cover lead hazard abatement, blood level testing, 20 full time employees to oversee the program, and supplies, travel, and outreach with the goal of 800 units abated and 20,000 tests conducted over four years. Harris County Public Health currently tests 1,500 children annually for elevated blood-lead levels and tests and renovates about 60 homes and child-occupied structures, such as daycares, annually. 

Study will Identify Procurement Disparities in Harris County Region

In so many ways, America, and by extension Harris County, is still casting off the shackles of generations of inequality and discrimination against people and businesses of color. Today, Black households have about seven cents in wealth compared to each dollar that white households hold. Women in general earn $0.82 for every $1.00 earned by men while Black women only earn $0.62. While about 15 percent of white Americans hold some business equity, only five percent of Black Americans hold equity in a business. 
In January, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved a $200,000 fund to identify any existing race and gender disparities in public procurement in the Harris County region. The study will lay the legal foundation for community colleges and independent school districts to establish highly effective Minority and Women-Owned Business (MWBE) programs, if disparities are found. The study is just one more step to help even the playing field for all Harris County residents.  

Harris County Expands Initiative to Provide Summer Programming to Children

Summer 2022 will be here soon, and we want our children to keep learning and being active when school lets out. Last year Harris County provided summer enrichment opportunities in fine arts, sports, college preparation, and more to 3,480 children through the County Connections Youth Summer Initiative. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved $1.5 million in funding from available ARPA Local Recovery Funds to expand the program to serve 7,000 children this summer. The majority of the funding will go directly toward grants for Harris County nonprofits that offer summer programming for children and youth. 

Harris County Jury Assembly Returns to Renovated Jury Assembly Plaza

Jury Assembly is back downtown! On February 6th Harris County jury assembly returned to the newly repaired and renovated Jury Assembly Plaza (1201 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002). The building has plenty of room for social distancing and the County is also expediting other downtown county building renovations, including the Family Law Center, to enable appropriate social distancing for jurors in light of the pandemic. This move will continue seamless operations of jury trials, minimize travel time for judicial staff from jury selection locations to courthouses, and protect the health of jurors performing a public service.

Resolution Honors Texas Medical Center Doctors For Developing Low-Cost, Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine

The Texas Medical Center has always been at the forefront of exciting developments in medical science, and now Harris County doctors have made another breakthrough. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court presented a resolution commending Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi for their role in reducing the impact of COVID-19 across the globe through their vaccine development and advocacy. The doctors led a team to develop CORBEVAX, a new COVID-19 vaccine. Nicknamed “The World’s COVID-19 Vaccine,” CORBEVAX was created as part of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development’s mission to develop and test new low-cost COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, effective, and affordable for use in underserved areas of the world. Following emergency use authorization, the manufacturer of CORBEVAX is producing 100 million doses per month and has already sold 300 million doses to the Indian government. Soon, manufacturers all around the world will be able to produce their own versions of the CORBEVAX vaccine, which is not patented, and some advocates hope it could be a model for how vaccines should be developed and shared globally during a pandemic. Congratulations Dr. Hotez and Dr. Bottazzi, and thank you for all of your work to fight COVID-19 on a global scale!

Upcoming Events


Upcoming Commissioners Court Meetings

As part of the County Judge’s Office initiative to make local government more transparent and accessible, we invite you to get involved by viewing Commissioners Court meetings. You can check here to see the meeting schedule, and watch the official close captioned livestream here or on the Judge’s homepage here.

Upcoming Flood Control Bond Project Meetings

Harris County never stops preparing for the next big storm. And while the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program is in full swing, we continue to seek input from community members as we implement projects in watersheds across the County. If you have a comment about a particular project, we invite you to attend the corresponding virtual meeting and be part of the planning process. Learn more about upcoming 2018 Bond Program Community Engagement Meetings here.

Hazardous Waste Collection Appointments

Do you have unwanted household hazardous items? Properly dispose of them by making an appointment with the Household Hazardous Waste Collections facility at 6900 Hahl Road in Houston. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.

About Judge Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.
For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.