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Prosecutors, police agencies and faith leaders unite to protect synagogues and other places of worship

January 24, 2021

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Monday joined with area police chiefs, constables, faith leaders and others to announce a unified front against anti-Semitic violence in the wake of the hostage-taking incident at a north Texas synagogue.

“We are here today to prevent the loss of life. There is no place for hate or hate crimes in our community,” Ogg said. “We want anyone contemplating hate to understand that by all of us standing together, accountability is inevitable. We will fight to find you. We will fight to arrest you. We will fight to prosecute you. We will fight to hold you with sufficient bail. We will fight to convict you and imprison you.”

More than four dozen law enforcement officials, faith leaders and representatives of community non-profit agencies stood with Ogg in the lobby of the District Attorney’s Office in downtown Houston for the announcement.

She noted that preventing violent crime is a priority for her office and prosecutors at the office work with law enforcement to help officers spend more time on patrol and not in court.

“We at the District Attorney’s Office are doing all we can to reduce the amount of time police have to spend in court on minor crimes so they can be in the streets preventing crimes of violence,” Ogg said. “We want to see more officers in the streets so that they can patrol areas near houses of worship to prevent hate crimes. We are not going to tolerate hate in our county.”

Ogg and other officials outlined security, support, training and other measures that are being implemented to prevent crime against the Jewish community, the Muslim community, the African American community and other vulnerable communities.

The Harris County DA’s Office employs prosecutors who have received specialized hate crimes training and have even taught anti-hate crimes courses, she noted. State law permits an increased penalty for those who are convicted of committing a hate crime, if a victim was chosen because of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation.

Among the faith leaders to attend: Rabbi Steve Morgen, Rabbi Oren Hayon, Father Miguel Solorzano, Bishop Mike Rinehart, Bishop Scott Jones, the Rev. Max Miller, Pastor Rudy Rasmus, Father Luke Millette and Mr. Shariq Ghani. Mark Toubin with the Anti-Defamation League, Martin Cominsky with Interfaith Ministries and Renée Wizig-Barrios of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston also attended.

“It’s extremely heartening to hear so many people here expressing their commitment to look out for ours and other minority communities in our city,” said Rabbi Hayon of Congregation Emanu El. “Every time there is an attack on a minority community, I hope that people of good faith and good conscience can get together to express their support and solidarity.”

Hayon noted that this was the third time DA Ogg had assembled law enforcement and faith leaders to speak out against antisemitism and other forms of hate and said these meetings are necessary whether the hatred is directed toward people of color, Asian American Pacific Islanders, people in the LGBTQ community or the Muslim community.

“Every time something terrible happens motivated by hate and prejudice and bias, I hope that people with good conscience and strong hearts can partner with those who are elected, appointed and sworn to look out for us to ensure that, as the DA said, ‘There is no place in our community for hate,’” Hayon said.

Among the top law enforcement officials in attendance: Houston Police Asst. Chief Ernest Garcia, FBI Houston Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Collodi, FBI Houston Division Asst. Agent in Charge Nitiana Mann, Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger, Baytown Police Chief John Stringer and Houston Fire Dept. Chief Samuel Peña, along with Pct. 1 Constable Alan Rosen and Pct. 7 Constable May Walker.

Five other Harris County Constable’s sent representatives, as did the Consulate General of Mexico.

 

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Dane Schiller