Changing the image in southwest Houston

November 4, 2009 4:53:46 PM PST
It's a remarkable change in what was once thought of as one of Houston's most dangerous neighborhoods. The community is working together to protect families. The area around Fondren and Bellfort has struggled for years to combat a serious crime problem. We put our exclusive Crime Tracker to work and found the new solutions are working.

After years of struggling to overcome an image problem, the area of Houston known as Fondren Southwest is making great strides. Community outreach is playing a critical role in re-shaping public perception.

From a brand new state-of-the-art library to new homes and businesses, the area of southwest Houston once branded as one of the most dangerous in the city is flourishing.

"We have rebranded the area," said Davis Hawes with the Brays Oaks Management District. "We're cleaning up the area and there are public safety initiatives and they are all basic enhancements to what the city and county is already doing."

Fondren Southwest is now being called Brays Oaks and the management district is spending several hundred thousand dollars to not only beautify the neighborhoods, but to make them safer by encouraging kids who live in the area to take advantage of opportunities they may not find at home.

The YMCA's teen center, an after school program, is that place, for Fondren Middle School students.

"We're going to try and build a positive impression for them of this community in ways they can give back to the community beyond just going and being entertained for an afternoon," said Alex Taylor with the YMCA teen center.

The kids, who come there twice a week, do more than just hang out and play games.

"I feel great because I don't like doing my homework that much," said Teen Ymeka Williams "People help me out with my homework."

While the program has been up and running for only a couple of months, it's already making an impact.

"It makes me feel good, having friends to play with and all that," said teen Daniel Alvarez.

Coupled with good law enforcement, the hope is more programs like this will go a long way towards reducing crime. In the past year alone, crime in the police beat that includes Brays Oaks is down more than 11 percent.

"Are we there yet?" asked Hawes. "No. We've got a long road ahead of us. But we are making tremendous progress."

The Brays Oaks Management District hopes to spur economic development by working to fill up the vacancies in the office buildings and retail centers.

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