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Harris County Attorney's Office
News Release
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Harris County Attorney Ryan Wins Grant To Continue Fight Against Public Nuisances

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s work to stop criminal activity through civil law has won his office a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Harris County Commissioners today accepted the $105,000 grant which will allow Ryan to hire two additional staff members on a contract basis for a year.  These staffers will work with assistant county attorneys on public nuisance cases. 

Each year, Ryan files court orders to close or restrict operations of bars, night clubs, convenience stores, massage parlors, spas, motels and other businesses which operate illegally.  These crimes include shootings, stabbings and murder, as well as prostitution, sex trafficking, drug dealing and violation of state liquor laws.

“As the representative of all Harris County residents, my staff and I work diligently and creatively to find ways to keep people and neighborhoods safe,” said County Attorney Ryan.  “We are grateful for this grant which will enable us to increase the number of cases prosecuted and close down more of these illegal businesses.”

The award comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.  It was awarded through the Houston-Galveston Area Council. 

Mike Driscoll, Harris County Attorney from 1981 to 1996, pioneered the use of nuisance abatement and other civil laws to protect neighborhoods.  Ryan was his first assistant then and now as the current County Attorney has continued and expanded Driscoll’s efforts.

Ryan’s success rate includes the closing of 20 illegal spas, which are often havens for prostitution and sex trafficking, and 25 illegal after-hours clubs in 2016 and so far in 2017.

Using civil laws to eliminate criminal activity has also gained the attention of other county attorneys and district attorneys across Texas, who frequently reach out to Ryan’s office for advice on the practice.

“When people reach out for help or law enforcement brings us an issue in the community, the County Attorney’s Office will work to find a way to solve the problem,” said Ryan.

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