The people who work in a particular shopping center on Beltway 8 at Bammel N. Houston Road have seen plenty of action in the last few months. The McDonalds has been robbed, the parking lot has been the scene of fights and shootings, and it's all part of an unfortunate trend on the northwest side of Harris County.
"Right down the street about a block or so, they started shooting and I disappeared," recalled resident Kirven Clarence.
Clarence has called northwest Harris County home for quite some time. But this summer he's witnessed a robbery and at least one shooting within blocks of his neighborhood.
"It scares you, you know, really," he said. "Because you never know -- people come by, shooting whatever. You never know, especially when you got kids."
If it seems like there's more violent crime on the northwest side, it's because there is.
"I'm concerned for the entire county," said Sgt. Robert Schields with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "We seem to have a spike in violent crimes right now"
The Harris County Sheriff's Office says there have been more than 300 more robberies this year between January and July than last year, particularly along Beltway 8 between Highway 249 and I-45.
Restaurant employee Oscar Granillo said, "They just broke in there and took the money away."
Granillo's father witnessed a robbery next door to their family restaurant.
"They assaulted the man and they took his money and they beat him up," Granillo said.
It's enough to make them invest in burglar bars, due to be installed in coming weeks. He, like Clarence, is now resorting to methods they never imagined to avoid the violence that now surrounds them.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office says they are working to focus the efforts of patrol units on areas that have been experiencing an increase in crimes.
The Sheriff's Office conducts home security inspections at no charge and helps organize Neighborhood Crime Watch programs. Go to http://www.hcso.hctx.net for details. The web site contains CrimeReports.com through which the 1.5 million residents of the unincorporated areas of Harris County can track crime reports in their neighborhoods and sign up for crime alerts via email. The Sheriff's Office free smart phone application, at iWatchHarrisCounty.com, can be used to provide anonymous crime tips to investigators on a non-emergency basis via text, photo and video.