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Houston Matters

Experts Ask For Proactive Attitude To Curb Youth Gun Violence In Houston

An 18 year-old high school student was violently killed this week in the River Oaks area.


An 18 year-old high school student was violently killed with a firearm this week in Houston and experts in gun violence told Houston Matters Wednesday that providing more safety for youths will take a proactive involvement of all Houstonians.

Caroleta Johnson, commander of the Gang Division at the Houston Police Department, said all people, both young and adults, have to speak up and “stop waiting until people start coming to us asking questions.”

Johnson put as an example reaching out to authorities if you have information about a person who sells guns illegally and also emphasized that parents and guardians have to strive to monitor who their children get involved with through social media.

Johnson said the “root causes” that are driving gun violence among youths must be identified through academic research, among other means.

While she acknowledged some incidents involving youths and firearms are caused by gang activity, the HPD commander added there are other cases in which the violence is the consequence of drug use.

Public health issue

Haley Carter, a former U.S. Marine officer and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who chairs Mayor Sylvester Turner's Commission Against Gun Violence, spoke of a “public health issue.” “We have to come together as a community. We cannot wait for our elected officials to go and make things happen,” Carter emphasized.

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
From left to right: Ernie Manouse, Houston Matters co-host; Haley Carter, chair of Mayor Turner's Commission Against Gun Violence, and Caroleta Johnson, commander of the Gang Division at the Houston Police Department.

She noted there are almost 200,000 Texas children who live in homes where there are unlocked and loaded firearms, according to Texas Gun Sense, and underscored that is “not acceptable.”

Haley also said the Commission, which Turner launched in May, will present the mayor with a second set of recommendations next week, including “community-oriented” initiatives in the line of promoting more mental health counseling and threat assessment teams.

No simple answers

Dr. David Persse, who serves as the Health Authority for the City of Houston's Health Department, agreed on the public health issue conceptualization and underscored that youth gun violence is a “multi-faceted” problem and “there’s not gonna be one quick simple answer.”

The phone number for the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office, which offers counselors and resources, is 832-393-0931.

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