In an effort to combat violent and organized crime, and crack down on human trafficking and gangs, this week Gov. Greg Abbott released a set of policy proposals for the legislature to prioritize when they convene in January.
“The State of Texas is sending a message to criminals and gang members that any attempts to compromise the safety of our communities will not be tolerated,” he said in a press release. “My top priority as governor is keeping Texans safe, and these latest proposals will help me do just that.”
In short, the plan calls for:
- Cracking down on violent gangs
- Disrupting human trafficking and smuggling
- Ensuring peace officer safety
- Banning red light cameras
Abbott is proposing $10 million in funding for two additional Texas Anti-Gang Centers and to provide more resources to the existing ones.
Additionally, he wants to crack down on correctional officers who engage in criminal activities. Under his proposal, if an officer is found to be involved, they would lose their pension and be barred from serving as correctional or peace officers.
As human trafficking and smuggling have remained a problem in Texas, Abbott wants to create the offense of “operating a stash house” and have owners forfeit the titles to their houses to charitable organizations upon final conviction. He also wants mandatory jail time for those convicted of human trafficking and sexual assault.
“For the most violent offenders, deferred adjudication and probation are far too lenient,” he said. “For especially heinous offenses, such as sexual assault and compelling prostitution, deferred adjudication or probation should no longer be made available.” His plan also calls for additional funding to hire five new investigators to improve online sex trafficking enforcement in the Attorney General’s office.
To further protect officers, Abbott wants to provide grants to local agencies to get naloxone for officers. Naloxone is an antidote to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil which can be deadly in small amounts. In addition, he wants to equip the 13 Texas Department of Public Safety crime labs with devices to check for small amounts of synthetic opiates. This plan also includes $10 million in funding for rifle-resistant body armor for police.
Lastly, Abbott wants the legislature to move to prohibit red light cameras and preempt local ordinances that allow for them. “They are expensive, studies indicate that they may increase accidents where deployed, and they pose constitutional issues,” says his policy proposal. “Texas should ban the use of these devices by preempting local authority to utilize them.”
With four months until the legislative session, this is the fourth policy rollout from Abbott and the second addressing public safety. However, we have yet to see proposals on other, increasingly popular, criminal justice-related issues such as banning non-jailable arrests and civil asset forfeiture, increasing transparency in policing, or genuine bail reform — all issues supported by Texas Republicans. Abbott’s base has become increasingly vocal in their desire to see measurable criminal justice reform come to fruition. Yet, time will only tell if legislators, and ultimately the governor, will ensure that happens.