“I remember the trauma first and foremost,” says Harris Country District Attorney Kim Ogg. ” As a small child I watched my mom suffer the physical and mental anguish of her kidnapping by a serial rapist who stabbed her repeatedly as she escaped by jumping out of a speeding car. My mother healed eventually, but in the back of her head her hair never grew back where scar tissue formed over one of the wounds. Every crime victim carries those scars all of their lives. We may not see the scars, but they exist. I have dedicated my career to advocating for crime victims because they are the only unwilling participant in the criminal justice system and someone has to remember that.”
Four years ago Kim Ogg was elected to be the top prosecutor in the country’s third most populous county. She has worked as a felony prosecutor, a defense attorney, on an anti-gang task force and as head of Crime Stoppers in Houston. Known as a “progressive prosecutor” she has worked to reform the cash bail system, stop arresting people for marijuana possession, and championed mental health diversion programs.
We caught up with Ogg at the Crime Stoppers live podcast, “Styling Social Justice”, she is up for re-election in just a few short weeks and says her work is far from over.
“Our streets are more dangerous today because of the release of repeat criminal on low cash bonds. There has been a 500% increase in cell phone store robberies due to overseas demand for the technology, a 35% increase in murder, a 21% increase in robberies and a 30% increase in car break-ins. We have got to reform the bail bond system to keep the biggest threats to our community’s welfare off the streets but that is a problem that can only be solved by electing the right judges into office.” Ogg explains.
“We don’t want poor people unfairly targeted but known threats should be imprisoned. Burglers, robbers, rapists and traffickers need to be held based on community risk and the threat level they pose, not on their ability to pay bond and be released. I urge the community to know the judges you are electing into office, it is the community’s responsibility to push for bail reform. Hundreds of murderers are on the streets in Houston right now because of this problem.”
Crime Stoppers director of victim services Andy Kahan said there are about 3,000 defendants out on bond for aggravated offenses including capital murder, aggravated robbery or assault. In addition, he said another 1,400 are out on bail for sexual assault, child porn and sexual crimes against children. Kahan said they will now showcase all known suspects and fugitives’ prior convictions, criminal history and whether they are on parole, probation or bond.
Kim Ogg is also a staunch advocate for changing the focus to fight human trafficking from prosecuting sex workers to targeting the pimps and traffickers who often force women into the sex trade. “It is the right thing to do to re-integrate sex sellers into the workplace; reform is crime prevention. There are service gaps in the treatment of sex trafficking victims. There needs to be more advocacy programs in place to do what the criminal justice system can’t do; provide these sex workers with alternative ways of making a living. As a district attorney I can build the case, but I need the community to advance the cause.”
Fighting crime in a city the size Houston is a daunting challenge and one only for the strongest among us, but for Ogg, it is a calling.
“We don’t have throw-away people. No one should be thrown away, whether they are criminals who want to turn their lives around or sex trade workers. If they need a hand up, as a society we should give it to them, those that take it should saved, and those that don’t shouldn’t be a threat to the community. But I can’t do it alone and that’s why groups like Crime Stoppers are so important. It take a community’s involvement to keep a community safe.”