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No, Sharpstown, Texas, Did Not Fire its Police Force and Bring About a Huge Drop in Crime

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No, Internet, it is not true that cheap, effective, and polite private cops have booted Houston’s boys in blue off their stools at this Sharpstown Shipley’s, even if versions of this error-ridden story have gone viral in certain circles.

Here’s the version of the story that’s floating around. Two years ago “Sharpstown, Texas, fired its entire police department” and replaced with them with a private security firm called S.E.A.L. Solutions. Not only have the rent-a-cops brought down crime by a whopping 61 percent, they’ve saved taxpayers $200,000 a year. And best of all, since they are a private company, they are thus eminently liable to lawsuits in the event of a case of police brutality, and thus, a kinder, gentler lot:

Another aspect, and possibly the most important, that sets privatized police apart from agents of the state, is that they have a negative incentive to initiate force. Force and violence are vastly more expensive than today’s police lead us to believe.

Causing injury or death, or wrongfully depriving someone of their rights is very expensive if these costs are realized for the ones who cause them. The state does not care, however. They can and will defer their liability to the tax farm.

The act of deferment of liability is a function solely reserved for the state, and it creates an incentive to act in an unethical manner. In the case of SEAL Security, each of their officers, as well as their entire operation, can be held liable, both criminally and financially. This is something about which the state knows nothing.

So, cheaper cops bringing down the crime rate while being nice and respectful about it, and doing so without taking a dime of tax money. Cop BlockAlex Jones, and Joe Rogan are lovin’ it! Libertarian paradise!

Only very little of it is true.

First, there is no such place as Sharpstown, Texas. Sharpstown is a master-planned community in southwest Houston, Texas. Sharpstown has never had its own schools, fire department, mayor, post offices, city council, or police force. It is under the jurisdiction of the Houston Police Department, just like downtown Houston, River Oaks, and Fifth Ward. 

Second, they didn’t fire anybody, technically speaking. They just refused to renew a yearly contract with the Harris County Constables’ Office for extra security patrols. (Sharpstown residents can still be ticketed and/or arrested by Harris County constables, just as they could by an HPD cop. I am sure some resident will try to pull the “You can’t bust me, we fired you,” card soon.) In addition to patrol, process-serving, and court security, Harris County constables will contract with neighborhoods for supplemental patrols, but their services do not come cheap. The Braeswood Place neighborhood, in near southwest Houston, pays $360,000 yearly for five deputy constables to patrol its confines

And then there’s that alleged 61 percent reduction in crime. That number apparently originates from an “independent study” conducted by the Sharpstown Civic Association, a group with a vested interest in combating its image as a haven for crime. According to a more objective source—Houston’s NBC affiliateSharpstown had the most total crimes of any Houston neighborhood in 2013, the first full year of the S.E.A.L. patrols. 

This isn’t the first time this story has gone around. Here’s a news video from April 2013, about five months after the civic association hired S.E.A.L. (I have no idea why this one did not go viral, like the latest one has, but such is the nature of the ’net. Maybe the bogus claims were not overblown enough.)

Note that the tagline claims that “crime” has gone down 50 percent since the rent-a-cops took over, but the head of the SCA states only that monthly home burglaries declined from twenty to eleven.  

So in the end, Sharpstown did not fire its police force, and if crime went down significantly under the watch of the security guards who replaced the constables, it remained the neighborhood with the most total crimes in all of Houston. (I’ll bet it’s true that they saved money though.)

The story amounts to this: a neighborhood with lots of crime turned to a cheaper alternative to fight it, and it might or might not be working, depending on who you talk to. Whoever is behind this PR coup for both Sharpstown and S.E.A.L deserves a raise, and the Internet loses that much more credibility. Sigh. 

(Photo: John Nova Lomax)

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  • PATRICK CHEWING

    An old Baby boomer in Texas doesn’t understand the Internet?

    I’m shocked.

  • Ronald Jones

    The article said 20 months…Why are you reaching within that time frame to suit your story? Also, what other sources are you using to accumulate the data that jusitifies having spent time writing this article? Seems that you only source one agency and speak mostly from an opinionated stance. Whether the article you’re trying to debunk is true or not doesn’t dismiss the fact that you provided a shoddy argument as a rebuttal.

    • I was born and raised in Sharpstown and my mother lived there 58 years. It is NOT a city village as defined by Texas law. It does not have municipal authority. PERIOD. It is a subdivision of the City of Houston, in the Harris County, Texas. Sharpstown High School is a school in Houston Independent School District, and there are multiple zip codes within the Subdivision of Sharpstown. I don’t know why you doubters can’t see the fundamental flaw of the story. Sharpstown is NOT a frickin’ town. It is a residential and commercial subdivision created and named for Frank Sharp, a developer during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Google “Sharpstown State Bank Scandal.” You’ll see why the FDIC was created. Not being an incorporated village, city or township, it therefore cannot have a police force. PERIOD. Take a damn Civics and Government 101 Refresher Course. Sheesh …

      • Blake Kirk

        I learned all I know about Texas politics by reading the Texas Observer during the glory days of the Sharpstown Scandal, Gus Mutcher, and the Dirty Thirty.

  • Kenneth Pokryska

    Uh No schools in Sharpstown? What about “SHARPSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharpstown_High_School

    Sharpstown has a zip code, 77036, how does a master plan community have a zip code?

    • I was born and raised in Sharpstown and my mother lived there 58 years. It is NOT a city or town or village as defined by Texas law. It does not have that municipal authority. PERIOD. It is a subdivision of the City of Houston, Texas. Sharpstown High School is a school in Houston Independent School District, and there are multiple zip codes with and crossing through the Subdivision of Sharpstown. I don’t know why you doubters can’t see the fundamental flaw of the story. Sharpstown is NOT a frickin’ town. It is a residential and commercial subdivision created and named for Frank Sharp, a developer during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Google “Sharpstown State Bank Scandal.” You’ll see why the FDIC was created. Not being an incorporated village, city or township, it therefore cannot have a police force. PERIOD. Take a damn Civics and Government 101 Refresher Course. Sheesh …

      • al

        does not seem like they need one, police crime is outpacing the civilian sector, cops are more dangerous than not

    • No schools as in no school districts. Every school in Sharpstown (that isn’t a private school) is in the Houston Independent School District.

    • Jameika

      It says it doesn’t operate its own schools, but that they’re part of HISD. And since when does a zip code mean an independent city?

  • al

    the more you read this story the more full of crap that LOMAX is, a five year old would have done a better job, he said it is now the most criminal entity in Houston, REALLY???

  • Spencer

    Additionally, a sector having more crimes (number-wise) does not mean that the crime rate hasn’t been reduced. What kind of sense are you making?

  • Henry Walker

    We maybe the should

  • I’ve lived in Sharpstown all my life. Have a lot of pride living in the neighborhood. Thought this was a good article that brought some much-needed clarification to some issues that have been spun pretty hard.

  • Durwood_Kirby

    So funny. All you have to do is count the number of black residents to predict the crime rate.

    • That girl

      Any race is likely to commit crime and Due to the following;

      Family
      If a child grows up without discipline, observes parents commit crimes and visits Uncle Joey at the local prison every other weekend, the child views this life as normal – it is inevitable they will follow suit. It’s a vicious cycle.

      Furthermore, many grow up in a environment of alcohol/ drug/ sexual abuse and family violence. Their only option is a life on the streets and a likely fall into crime.

      Education
      Many offenders I’ve had dealings with have not completed secondary school and therefore lack the basic skills (academic & social) required to secure employment.

      Unemployment
      Obviously, unemployment leads to boredom and poverty…crime is inevitable. Without employment, there is no money to pay fines which often results in prison time.

      • workforlivn

        So if they don’t raise children with a single parent, don’t use or sell illegal drugs, complete the publically financed education that is handed to every one of them, then get and keep a job, their outcomes are the same is white people.

        So glad you cleared that up.

        You must think black people as a group lack agency and must be raised like farm animals or pets. I personally think more of blacks than you do.

        • That girl

          … Yes black people would have the same outcome as white people under the same circumstances… Thank you for reiterating my point…

          As far as you saying that I must think that “black people must be raised like farm animals” I’m completely missing where you made that connection…

          • workforlivn

            Each of your points throws the blame for the outcome of blacks onto environmental conditions.
            If the conditions are insurmountable i.e. they lack agency, then the only solution is for white people to create an artificial environment for them to flourish; much as you would a horse or cattle.

            History is the story of humans overcoming obstacles to create the world you and I live in. The most destructive agent in black culture in the US seems to be the left’s programs instituted since 1964. I think blacks could rise to a higher level of flourishing without them.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexivity_(social_theory)

          • ChanzaLando

            Central planning does not work. It is only the arbitrary whims of Rulers forced upon a hostage populace. It has always failed for any long term solution, the costs and consequences of forcing a solution are enormous, and the incentive is simply to plunder.

            Criminality is an environmental issue and a medical issue, just like any other disorder in life. If you think of people as animals and treat them as such, they will become animals.

            It’s time to treat human beings as equal individuals who are all capable of choice and responsible for their own decisions.

            Democracy is a tyranny of majority and a tyranny of rulers. It has devolved into blatant slavery by force upon a hostage people all over again.

            The market will always provide every service you could ever need, and people will always be willing to pay for everything they want and/or need. Don’t like a service? You simply pay someone else and no one can threaten to raid your home and kill you if you don’t pay, you will have security services to prevent criminals that try to “Tax” you.

            Corruption comes from the barrel of a gun. Government and Rulers is the equivalent of handing the power and immunity to use violence to small group of individuals and expecting this not to go horribly wrong. It is a protection racket.

            I would like to stop funding violence, war aggression, crime, and plunder wouldn’t you?

            What right does some would-be King or Queen have to force his will upon you with threats of death, chains, or a cage?

            Statism is chaos, and prevents us from seeking voluntary solutions to real problems in life.

            Government is a Monoply of initiatory force.

            You do not have the right to initiate violence, and neither do they.

            There is only 1 law, and that is DO NO HARM.

            If taxes were voluntary, would you still pay them? Most would say no.

            Why should we be threatened with death if we refuse to pay and choose to pay for REAL services. Only a criminal organization does this sort of thing. There is no such thing as service that requires violent theft to fund it.

            Government, an idea so absolutely devastating and terrible that they have to FORCE you to pay for it with guns, threats, and violence.

  • That girl

    I guess google maps must be in on the conspiracy as well because there most certainly is a Sarpstown High School in Sharpstown Texas. And I wouldn’t trust the credibility of am article that ends with “sign”…

  • ChanzaLando

    At what point in this article were you supposed to prove the claims untrue?

    You argue semantics and then point out that it is in fact true, just worded slightly different?

    Private Security will always be INFINITELY superior to Tax Farming a hostage people to pay for a monopoly that claims the right to initiate force on peaceful people.

    Crowd-funded Private Security where they are beholden to the customer and the customer can stop footing the bill or use someone else if they are unhappy with the services…

    vs.

    “Pay OR ELSE” tax-farming death threats to pay for a monopoly that you struggle to fire, cannot stop paying, and uses YOUR MONEY to cover their lawsuits and damages, while they go around creating crime and danger by enforcing laws that criminalize peaceful behavior and victimize peaceful people….. hmmmmm…

    That’s a tough one. Yeah right.

    CHOICE always beats monopoly. Government and Rulers are an illegitimate protection racket forced upon a hostage people upon threat of DEATH if you try to resist the aggression.

    There is only 1 law, and that is DO NO HARM. Police break this law as standard procedure, vicitimizing more motorists, businesses, and innocent people in a single day than any street criminal.