Houston area sees increase of children getting caught in crossfire of violent crime

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff's Office have seen a string of violent shootings where children have fallen victim to the rise in crime.

In less than a week, there have been three shootings where children have been seriously injured, including the deadly shooting of 11-year-old Darius Dugas II when he went to his mother's vehicle to get his coat and other items he left behind in northeast Harris County.

SEE MORE: Grieving mother wants justice in northeast Harris County murder of 11-year-old son

"These are all tragedies," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during a press conference on Wednesday. "There's nothing I could say that is going to bring these kids back, and it breaks my heart for the families and for the community."

Judge Hidalgo, along with Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the Harris County Public Health Department, announced two violent crime initiatives called the Gun Violence Intervention program and the Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART) pilot program, which is expected to start in March to help curb the rise in crime and help provide resources to address social welfare issues and mental health in the community.

On Tuesday, $1.4 billion was approved to dedicate resources for public safety and justice programs in Harris County as part of the annual budget, according to the public health department. Those funds will be allocated to help increase staffing in jails and in the criminal justice system while helping the two pilot crime prevention programs.

"The idea is to stop this gun violence so there aren't innocent kids caught in the crossfire," Hidalgo said. "These things are not going to change overnight."

Kerry McCracken, the executive director of the Children's Assessment Center, said the center has seen an increase in reports of children in Harris County experiencing sexual abuse and related trauma.

McCracken said the disturbing trend of children falling victim to violent crime is increasing in the Houston area as well as across the nation.

"When we have a trauma like that, the whole community experiences the trauma," McCracken said. "Understand that our children are experiencing that anxiety and trauma. Make sure to talk to them. Make sure and look for signs. Make sure that if they are exhibiting signs of trauma, stress, anxiety that you talk to them and if there is a need for even greater resources (such as) mental health interventions that you reach out and get those resources for that child."

For more on ways to help protect your children, click here. To report suspected abuse you can visit the Texas Abuse Hotline or call 1(800)252-5400 or 911 for emergencies.

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