Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Monitor and Prepare for an Active Hurricane Season

Three years after Hurricane Harvey devastated our region, we once again braced for a week of uncertainty, as two separate storms in the Gulf of Mexico put us on high notice.

As we shifted our focus from Marco to Laura, at times, early forecasts put the greater Houston area in the storm’s cone or direct path. We monitored and prepared for the worst-case scenario and encouraged Harris County residents to do the same by following the latest updates from local authorities, making sure their disaster kit is stocked, and signing up for emergency alerts. Days before landfall, we staged our fleet of high-water rescue vehicles and watercraft throughout the region so that we’d be poised to act when called upon. Our Homeless Outreach Teams offered transportation to shelters and supplies as they visited encampments.

We haven’t forgotten Hurricane Harvey’s lessons. Since Harvey’s historic landfall, our agency has devoted more staff and resources to high-water equipment and swift water rescue training to better ensure the safety of our communities:

  • Our fleet of high-water trucks and Humvees has increased from 13 to 28.
  • Our fleet of air boats, flat-bottom boats, and inflatable boats increased from 3 to 13.
  • More than 40 deputies completed an intense, two-day swift water rescue training course. That number will soon approach 90, now that Harris County Commissioners Court has authorized additional training.
  • Our 911 call takers and dispatchers are in a new, elevated emergency call center that is designed to operate during and immediately following storms. It has three backup generators – one of which has enough fuel capacity to run the building at full power for 6 days – and can sustain wind speeds up to 155 mph.

As Laura neared the shore and moved inland, certainty and confidence grew in a landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border, sparing the Houston-Galveston region from its worst effects. However, the situation looked increasingly dire for our neighbors to the east of us as forecasters predicted Laura would become a Category 4 storm and bring life-threatening storm surge.

For us in Houston, the storm veering toward the Louisiana border meant bracing for primarily wind impacts felt throughout our community and potential prolonged power outages. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

We are reminded this is the most active period of hurricane season, and it is important to have emergency plans in place and supplies ready as weather forecasts can change quickly. Stay informed and be ready before a storm hits.

Missing in Harris County Day | August 29

Texas Center for the Missing, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston Police Department, and other partners are hosting Missing in Harris County Day tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., to help those with missing loved ones navigate the missing person system and connect with other missing person families for support.

  • The Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department will be taking reports for missing persons.
  • Representatives from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) will be entering missing persons information into national databases.
  • Families will be encouraged to schedule a time to submit familial DNA samples used for identification.
  • A private missing person family support group gathering will be hosted virtually at 12:30 p.m. to provide a safe space to discuss these difficult cases. Contact Texas Center for the Missing at 713.599.0235 or support@tcftm.org to confirm your attendance at the private support group meeting.

For more information on Missing in Harris County Day, visit this website. Join the social conversation using the hashtag #MissingInHC.

Staying Alert

While many things may seem out of our control when it comes to COVID-19, let’s continue to work together, remain positive and build on what’s working for our communities – staying informed on the development of the virus and practicing daily precautions to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) provides regular updates on testing and confirmed cases in our area via the Harris County / Houston COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.

HCPH encourages residents to register for free COVID-19 testing if they are exhibiting symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

God bless you, and may God bless the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrate National Senior Citizens Day with Us

Today is National Senior Citizens Day. Join me in celebrating these beloved family members and neighbors today and every day. This day is dedicated to increasing awareness about issues that affect older adults and supporting them throughout the aging process. It’s also a time to recognize and acknowledge their lasting contributions to our communities.

In recognition of National Senior Citizens Day, our Community Engagement Division hosted a Facebook Live discussion this afternoon to share helpful resources and safety advice with our elderly loved ones.

Emergency Preparedness for Seniors

In anticipation of an active hurricane season, we encourage residents to be informed and ready for a disaster. Emergency planning is especially important for older adults. It’s critical to consider any special assistance they may need and include it in their preparedness plan. If you live near a senior citizen who might need assistance preparing for a hurricane, please take a moment to check in with them now and let them know you’re available to help. The CDC recommends taking steps to ensure seniors are protected.

  • Create a support network of family, friends, and others who can assist you during an emergency and share your disaster plans with them. Decide how you will communicate with each other.
  • Consider speaking with your neighbors about developing a check-in system together.
  • Plan how you will leave and where you will go during an evacuation. If you are living in a retirement or assisted living community, learn what procedures are in place in case of emergencies.
  • Consider your medical, transportation, or other access needs during an emergency.
  • Create a care plan using an easy-to-use care plan template from the CDC.
  • Medical related items:
    • Have at least a three-day supply of medicine. List of all medications, including the exact dosage and prescribing physician.
    • ID band (full name, emergency contact, and medical information)
    • Information about medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen.
  • Put together a Disaster Supply Kit with recommended items from Ready.gov.
  • Sign up for local emergency alerts at ReadyHarris.org.

Crime Prevention for Seniors

We encourage seniors to stay involved in their communities and to take precautions to reduce their vulnerability to certain crimes, such as mugging and fraud.

  • Stay active in your community. Get to know your neighbors by introducing yourself and joining your homeowner association or Neighborhood Watch Program.
  • Be aware of the types of criminal activity happening in your neighborhood.
  • Be especially wary of good deals, good faith money, and get rich quick schemes.
  • When you’re at home:
    • Keep your doors locked. Don’t let strangers in your home without checking their identification. Call their company if you’re not sure.
    • Protect windows and sliding glass doors with good locks or other security devices.
    • Don’t hide extra house keys under a doormat or other obvious spots.
    • If you live alone, don’t make it well-known.
  • When you’re not at home:
    • Make your home appear occupied when you go out by leaving lights on.
    • Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to return.
    • Work out a buddy system with a neighbor to check on each other regularly.
    • If you’re carrying a purse or bag, don’t dangle it. Hold it close to your body.
    • Have your car or house key in hand as you approach your home or vehicle.
    • Park in well-lit, busy areas and carry a cell phone with you, if possible.

For more safety tips, please reach out to our Crime Prevention Unit at crime.prevention@sheriff.hctx.net.

Heads up, Texas

One in five crashes on our state’s roads is caused by a distracted driver. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is testing your ability to keep your attention on the road with a new augmented reality game. Dart Those Distractions helps Texans recognize and stop various distractions behind the wheel. It’s an important reminder that distracted driving takes many forms and isn’t just about texting or talking.

All distractions can be dangerous and are preventable. TxDOT encourages drivers to:

  • Always give driving your full attention. It’s against the law in Texas to read, write or send a text while driving.
  • Make any adjustments to your GPS, seats, mirrors, radio, and air condition prior to getting on the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. At a speed of 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field. Let’s commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths. For more information from TxDOT, click here.

Staying Alert

Flattening the curve and saving lives starts with staying informed on the development of COVID-19 and practicing the recommended guidelines from the CDC and local public health authorities. Harris County Public Health (HCPH) provides daily updates on testing and confirmed cases via the Harris County / Houston COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.

HCPH encourages residents to register for free COVID-19 testing if they are exhibiting symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

God bless you, and may God bless the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Congratulations, Leadership Development Institute Graduates!

Last Friday afternoon, 30 Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies and staff members from all levels of the agency graduated from the Leadership Development Institute (LDI), a week-long leadership program established in 2013 to advance and engage our rising leaders. The program equips them with the necessary skills and tools to confidently and effectively lead others and better serve the residents of Harris County.

The mission of LDI is to “support becoming the leading Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. by creating quality standards, methods to measure our success, a culture of servant leadership accountability, and a shared commitment to enhance the safety and trust of the residents of Harris County.” It embodies our fifth core value of developing, encouraging, and caring for our Sheriff’s Office family and emphasizes servant leadership. The course instruction features prominent leaders and subject matter experts in government and the private industry and teaches various leadership styles rooted in servant leadership.

Program graduates will apply their learnings and the training to their day-to-day leadership roles and will work together to present innovative and viable ideas that seek to improve the agency.

Leadership requires an ongoing commitment to learning and growth, as well as a dedication to serve others. Join me in congratulating the graduates on this professional development milestone and their continued service to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Click here to view photos from the graduation.

Dog Walker Watch Program

Many neighbors walk their dogs at all times of the day, all days of the week, and in all weather conditions throughout their neighborhoods. The Dog Walker Watch Program is an awareness campaign that provides everyone, especially dog walkers, with information on how to be more alert and to better observe and report suspicious activity while out in their communities.

Our Community Engagement Division hosted a Facebook Live discussion earlier this week about the Dog Walker Watch Program, sharing the following information and safety tips to empower Harris County residents to take an active role in their communities:

  • Law enforcement needs your help. The majority of police arrests result from residents’ phone calls.
  • Everyone, not just dog walkers, can help keep their neighborhoods safe. Pledge to be the extra eyes and ears in your neighborhood.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted by phone calls, text messages, emails, or loud music.
  • Get to know your neighbors by introducing yourself, joining your homeowner association, and signing up for the Nextdoor application notifications.
  • Become aware of the types of criminal activity happening in your neighborhood.
  • Know the type of information law enforcement needs, including an address or intersection, suspect description, and a good contact phone number for follow-up.
  • Learn personal safety tips, such as changing your route on occasion, wearing bright or reflective clothing in the evenings, and taking your cell phone with you on walks or runs.
  • Call or text 911 when you or your neighbor needs immediate police assistance. For non-emergencies, call 713-221-6000.

For more information about the program, watch our recorded livestream or visit this website. If you have any questions, please reach out to our Crime Prevention Unit at crime.prevention@sheriff.hctx.net. You know your neighborhood the best. Thank you for your commitment to building a safer, more caring community with all of your neighbors.

Staying Alert

Flattening the curve and saving lives starts with staying informed on the development of COVID-19 and practicing the recommended guidelines from the CDC and local public health authorities. Harris County Public Health (HCPH) provides daily updates on testing and confirmed cases via the Harris County / Houston COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.

HCPH continues to provide free COVID-19 testing across Harris County, including two surge testing sites in the Cy Fair and Pasadena areas with evening appointments available. HCPH encourages residents to register for free COVID-19 testing if they are exhibiting symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

God bless you, and may God bless the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Stronger Together

I hope your family is healthy, safe, and happy. I’m optimistic the month of August will bring new opportunities and a renewed spirit for all of us.

Harris County’s greatest strength is its residents and their unwavering resilience in the face of any obstacle. While many things may seem out of our control when it comes to COVID-19, let’s continue to work together, remain positive and build on what’s working for our communities – staying informed and practicing daily precautions to protect ourselves and our neighbors.

Share the Road

Pedestrian-related traffic crashes remain a serious problem across our region and state. Texas had the third highest number of pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2018 in the US, according to a study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

All of us share a responsibility to stay safe on our roads. The Texas Department of Transportation suggests we take the following precautions to enhance pedestrian safety:

What can pedestrians do to stay safe?
  • If there’s a sidewalk, use it. If there’s no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
  • Always cross at intersections or marked crosswalks. Look both directions before proceeding to cross a street.
  • Obey all traffic signals.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Be visible. Wear something light or reflective after dark.
What can drivers do to help keep pedestrians safe?
  • Reduce your speed when approaching crosswalks and stop for pedestrians.
  • Yield the right of way to pedestrians when turning.
  • Be careful when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • Stay alert and minimize distractions – pedestrians may enter your path suddenly.
  • Obey the speed limit and drive to conditions.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s Vehicular Crimes Division (VCD) responds to and investigates fatal crashes, including hit and run collisions and auto-pedestrian accidents. Watch this video to follow Deputy Balthazar, an accident investigator, for a day on the job and to learn more about our VCD. You can do your part to help prevent these tragedies from happening in our community.

Free Roadside Assistance Programs Expanded

With the support of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston-Galveston Area Council has expanded the service area of the Tow and Go Program, which provides no-cost towing for vehicles that break down due to mechanical failure, to include all camera-monitored freeways in Harris County, Bellaire, Jersey Village, La Porte and Humble.

The Sheriff’s Office has been an instrumental partner since the program’s launch, authorizing Tow and Go clearances, working hand-in-hand with approved operators, and maintaining the integrity of the program. All Tow and Go operators have met strict selection standards and completed roadway safety and traffic incident management training.

In addition to the Tow and Go expansion, the no-cost Motor Assistance Program (MAP) is now offering expanded service hours. Stranded motorists on Harris County freeways can receive immediate roadside assistance, 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, through MAP.

MAP reduces traffic congestion and keeps motorists and first responders safe. Services include:

  • Changing a flat tire
  • Jump starting a car
  • Assisting with minor engine repair
  • Supplying fuel, water and/or air
  • Removing stranded vehicles from roadways
  • Providing stranded motorists with courtesy transportation to a safe location

As travelers take to area roads and freeways, safety should always be a top priority. The expansions of these quick clearance programs are another step toward reducing secondary incidents, keeping traffic moving, and most importantly, saving lives.

For more information about Tow and Go, visit TowAndGo.com or call 713-881-3333 for immediate roadside assistance.

For more information about MAP, click here or call 713-CALL-MAP (713-225-5627) for immediate roadside assistance.

Staying Alert

Harris County Public Health provides daily updates from across our region regarding testing, confirmed cases, and the development of COVID-19. For these updates, refer to the Harris County / Houston COVID-19 Cases Dashboard.

Everyone is at risk of getting sick from COVID-19, but minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus. It’s important to know the health disparities within our area and to take action. HCPH encourages residents to read its community health guide and to register for free COVID-19 testing if they feel they are exhibiting symptoms or have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

God bless you, and may God bless the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

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