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Sheriff Gonzalez Highlights the Need to Work with the Community to Fight Crime

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From left: Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, Shell representative Terry Garland, Keynote Speaker Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Joya Shukla, Allen Richards, Jagdip Ahluwalia. Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who took office in January, met with IACCGH members and guests to describe the “pretty daunting task” of keeping Houston safe. He was the Keynote speaker at the Chamber’s Distinguished Lecture Series with Chief Guest Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray. The event was held on July 26th at the Consulate of India and sponsored by Shell.

Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia thanked Dr. Ray for his efforts in making the Consulate “people friendly” and his graciousness in opening the doors of the Consulate for community events. When distinguished speakers such as Sheriff Gonzalez address the community, he added, the message gets “disseminated to a wider array of people.”

Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray highlighted India’s growth potential and its huge strides in “making business in India a seamless experience.” He also spoke of the possibility of a direct flight between Houston and New Delhi.

President Allen Richards reminded the gathering about the Chamber’s upcoming Gala which brings together Houston’s top business leaders. He encouraged them to attend the event which is to be held on August 26th at the Hilton Americas in downtown.

Sheriff Gonzalez commenced his address by recounting how his father could not read or write and needed assistance with simple acts such as reading the menu or a sign. Growing up, this had a profound impact on him and taught him that people sometimes need assistance which should be given without “judgement or prejudice.” It was this conviction that carried him to a career in the police force.

One of his first tasks as Sheriff, he stated, was to bring the budget under control, make the dollar go far and still be effective in combating crime. The investigative department, he conceded, needed to be improved and efforts have been ramped up to redeploy resources better to prevent DWI fatalities – a leading cause of death on Houston’s highways.

The penalty for intoxication in a public place (not driving intoxication) is a trip to jail. The Sheriff suggested alternatives such as a center where intoxicated people can be taken to sleep it off and sober up before getting on the road. Additionally, the department has partnered with the District Attorney in a program that will not incarcerate people for possession of marijuana but instead encourage them to sign up for a program that’s akin to a Defensive driving program. According to him, these are much “smarter approaches” and would save the department money and help deploy resources more effectively.

Jails, he emphasized, are there to keep people who are a danger to society and not for those making a “mistake” or a low level offence. Efforts are on to improve the criminal system and make it more “effective and compassionate.”

The Sheriff also underscored the need for working with the community to bring about closer ties and “fight crime.” The city, he stated, needs “more tools in the toolbox” but assured the gathering that Houston is still “a safe region.”

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