In-Depth

Three Years After A Shocking Crime, Near Northside Residents Work To Keep Their Neighborhood Safe

Residents are pleased with recent developments but they say a lot of work still needs to be done.

We recently spent some time walking around a neighborhood in transition, a place where three years ago there was a terrible crime. That’s the Near Northside neighborhood just outside downtown Houston.

We talked with Greg and Kristin Shelley, who moved to Near Northside about a year ago from Katy. They found a cottage just a short walk from the Main Street light rail line and many of downtown’s attractions. They were newcomers in a neighborhood where many families have lived for generations but they say they found a welcoming community.

“I think that’s one of the best parts of this neighborhood is that they’re accepting of everyone and there’s someone to represent every level of the socio-economic class,” said Kristin Shelley.

Greg Shelley admitted they’ve had some minor property crimes, but for the most part he feels pretty safe in Near Northside.

“I’m fortunate enough to say that in the last year I’ve never felt physically threatened or anything,” he told us. “And we walk into and out of downtown from this location even after dark and we’ve never had any issues.”

But just around the corner from the Shelley’s home there’s a constant reminder of a horrific incident. At the corner of Fulton and James Streets there’s a memorial to Josué Flores, an 11-year-old boy who was stabbed to death as he walked home after a school party.

Police made an arrest in 2017 but the charges were later dropped. While the man who was arrested remains a person of interest, the case is still officially unsolved.   

That weighs heavily on the mind of Edgar Gil-Haro who grew up in Near Northside.

“I went to the same middle school as Josué Flores,” said Gil-Haro. “I belonged to the same science club that he belonged to. So it was very close to home when he was murdered.”

We met up with Gil-Haro and his neighbors at the Leonel Castillo Center, a former school that’s now a hub of neighborhood activities. They’re part of Safe Walk Home, a group that looks after kids as they walk to and from school.

Stella Mireles-Walters founded the group after Josué’s death.

“It was so senseless and it also jolted us to having to open our eyes and start moving toward making this neighborhood safer for the students and for the families,” said Mireles-Walters.

Most of the neighbors we talked to said one thing they’re pleased about is the closure of the Salvation Army men’s shelter on Main Street. They’re also happy the city has tightened up regulations on boarding houses.

Mother-of-five Rosa Medrano said she still keeps a close eye on her children while they’re waiting for the bus to go to school. She’s also watching out for other people’s kids.

“At their bus stop there’s a lot of those kinds of houses,” said Medrano. “Some other parents, they will not leave their kids unless I’m there. They wait until I get to that corner.”

Another neighbor, Jeff Trevino, told us how his teenage son was robbed on a rail platform. He said they also found the body of a murder victim dumped on his street. But Trevino added there’s a lot of resolve in Near Northside. He said he considers his neighbors his extended family and they all keep an eye on things.

“I think there’s a sense that maybe the criminal element know that they can get away with this over here,” Trevino told News 88.7. “And until we show them, all of the neighbors show them that that’s not acceptable and we continue to look out for each other, that’s hopefully going to change.”

And those newcomers we spoke to said they’re also hoping for a positive future. Kristin Shelley said knowing your neighbors is a huge part of that.

“Like anywhere else you need to be vigilant where you go and it’s best to know neighbors and be aware of your surroundings. But I don’t feel unsafe here. In fact it’s a really quiet neighborhood.”

Meanwhile the reward for information leading to an arrest in the Josué Flores case has now been increased to $10,000.

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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