Malayalee Community Seeks Answers, Redress for Home Invasions

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FBISD Trustee K.P. George made opening remarks as the elected officials and police chiefs of Ft. Bend County, Missouri City, Stafford  and Sugar Land listened.

By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: The turnout by the area’s Malayalee community surprised even the organizers themselves, making more than one of the invited police chiefs and elected officials exclaim at the number of people who showed up at the Knanaya Catholic Center in Missouri City. More than one said the crowd of nearly 400 who showed up on a Sunday afternoon was “stunning” and “impressive”.

The event was organized by the Center in association with the Malayalee Association of Greater Houston and the 2-year-old South Indian US Chamber of Commerce, to seek redress for the series of home invasions which has plagued the Missouri City area, with two Malayalee families in Riverstone and Olympia Lakes subdivisions being victims in the past month.

But if the crowd came seeking better protection and solutions, they received only grandstanding, words of assurance and explanations of current procedures from the group of politicians and police chiefs who were seated on chairs on the raised stage in the large assembly hall. One by one, they came to the podium to explain who they were and what their offices did; stressing how they were doing the best they could with the resources they had and offering no new initiatives to satisfy the crowd which was convinced that the Malayalee community was being targeted.

The event was emceed by Ajith Antony with the Knanaya Catholic Center who briefly introduced each speaker; and after a brief welcome by SICC spokesman George Eappen, started with opening remarks by FBISD School Trustee K. P. George who acted as spokesman for the pent-up frustration and anger of the 7,000 families that make up the area’s Malayalee community. He said the object was to learn from the experts on how to be aware and how the system works. This was followed by the national anthems of the US, sung by Sneha George and Indian Anthem by Sheeba George (K.P.’s daughter and wife).

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Abraham Joseph, who suffered a home invasion early this year, spoke about his ordeal

After each speaker was introduced and strode to take his chair, Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey was first to express his department’s concern for all dweller’s safety, even if they are undocumented. His office has 51 prosecutors and has to place the facts before the police chiefs “so that the truth will come out”.  “Ft. Bend County is the safest in the area,” he continued, “due to the finest police force.” He added to have faith in the police and urged witnesses to come forward, that “the police is your friend.”

This was a common refrain among all the speakers who came forward. Allan Owen, the Mayor of Missouri City for the past 25 years was amazed at the 94 languages spoken in his ethnically diverse city and said that criminals will stake you out not because “you are Indian but because you are a hard working individual”. Leonard Scarcella, the Mayor for the City of Stafford for the past 45 years defended the police and expressed outrage at the way they were being vilified in the media over recent incidents.

Missouri City Police Chief Michael Berezin released an artist’s sketch of one of the suspects in the most recent home invasion and assured the audience that the police force were not concerned about the ethnicity of the tax-payer; that Indians were not being targeted; and that he was in talking phases in hiring an Indian officer. He advised people to change their work patterns to avoid being followed; businesses to use a service for making deposits and gave tips of avoiding tailing cars.

City of Stafford Police Chief Bonny Krahn agreed that the criminal activity was not directed at any particular group and offered for hid officers to come to homes to give ideas to make them more secure. Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Rodney Glendening said his office has raised its crime solving from 4% to 22% through pro-active investigations, like using tracking devices to follow suspects. Ft Bend County Constable Trevor Nehls (whose brother Troy is Sheriff) urged that the best effort is teamwork with the public in partnership. Latecomer Dist. 27 State Rep. Ron Reynolds agreed that people should know who their neighbors are and keep an eye out for each other.

A poignant moment of the event came when Abraham Joseph relate how a gang of three smashed through the backdoor and invaded his house at 3am on May 28. He continued to tell about his family’s 2-hour ordeal at gunpoint while the gang ransacked all the rooms, taking all the valuables and left him, his wife and two teenage girls tied up with neckties and electric cords.

The event ended with a panel of Sheba George, K.P. George and George Eappen asking five questions from among the many submitted in writing by the audience as they entered the hall and the speakers answering them, with Haley taking the lead. On the question of how many home invasions had taken place in the recent past, they said they did not have the statistics with them to respond.