A new $50 million initiative intended to improve neighborhood safety in areas of Harris County with prevalent crime and gun violence passed unanimously at the Oct. 12 commissioners court meeting.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said neighborhoods with higher levels of criminal activity and violence have often been neglected and received less investment than other parts of the county.

“Too often, blighted buildings, dark streets, unsafe and abandoned structures serve as incubators of crime and gun violence,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a press conference Oct. 12. “Places where families don't even have the benefits of a sidewalk to get to school or even simple things like air conditioning or trees to find comfort in the oppressive heat of summer—those are the places where the seeds of criminal activity often find refuge.”

The "Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods" initiative will improve street lighting, sidewalks and visibility in residential areas, as well as address abandoned structures and restore vacant lots, among other improvements.

Hidalgo said these types of investments are proven to reduce crime and save taxpayer dollars long-term in other U.S. metropolitan areas. Funding will come from the county’s capital improvement program or other sources, and it would not be diverted from other areas, she said.

This measure follows other efforts made by county commissioners in recent years to reduce crime, such as addressing the criminal court case backlog and increasing law enforcement budgets by 13%, Hidalgo said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who has a background in law enforcement, said the goal of the initiative is to revitalize—not gentrify—neighborhoods in need. He is hopeful these steps will make families and individuals feel safer in their communities.

“Where I grew up was a tough neighborhood where tough things happened,” Garcia said. “I remember a constant conversation amongst my peers at the time was, ‘I can’t wait to get out of this neighborhood.’ That is not what we want any young person to say today.”