Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Joining Forces for Our Children

Earlier this week, we kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month at the steps of The Children’s Assessment Center with our most dedicated partners in the fight against child abuse in Harris County.

As a close-knit community of child advocates, we work as a team to protect our most vulnerable.

You are part of this team. We rely on our community to report abuse and keep our children safe when they see the signs of a child in need.

Blue and silver pinwheels outside The Children’s Assessment Center building were spinning in the wind, one for each of the 175 children who are victims of abuse in Texas every day.

Signs of abuse aren’t always obvious, but they are often there if you know where to look. We are asking every adult in our community to help. Take actionable steps to create safer environments for the children in your life:

  • If you see something, say something. Reporting suspicions of child abuse can save a life, prevent further victimization, or stop more children from being victimized.
  • Learn how to recognize and report child abuse. Education and training are our best defense against those who harm children.
  • Talk to your children. Start the conversation early and continue the discussion throughout their upbringing.
  • Spread the message. Tell your neighbors and loved ones how they, too, can do their part to keep our children safe in a real and virtual world.

Our partners at The CAC offer free training and resources on the signs and symptoms of child abuse and share stories of survivors throughout the year. In April, they’re hosting additional training and virtual workshops on child abuse awareness and prevention. For more information on what’s in store and how to get involved, click here.

As first responders, we work tirelessly to investigate allegations of child abuse. We also work hard to identify and combat human trafficking cases, especially those involving a juvenile.

There aren’t many jobs in our agency that are tougher than being a child abuse investigator. These incidents are horrific, heartbreaking cases of abuse and neglect involving an innocent and defenseless child.

But it’s an important calling that offers the chance to make a difference in the lives of our community’s great asset: our children.

Our investigators’ role in child abuse cases spans the entire case from the initial call, through the investigation, and to the court proceedings. Our Crimes Against Children Unit stays involved in the investigation as the victim and their family receive the proper treatment, services, and support from advocacy centers to start their healing process. It’s a coordinated response from the start.

Sadly, in 2020, nearly 4,000 children received services at The CAC. These experts provide high-quality care so children can thrive. Their work embodies the sentiment: “No future should be out of reach.”

And while the work of our specialized unit is always essential, it is especially critical during a crisis. The disruption brought on by the pandemic made our children even more vulnerable to abuse. Some of those traditional safety nets have been removed with children not regularly attending schools, daycares, and after-school programs.

With violent crime on the rise over the past year, Harris County is investing in overtime pay meant to help our investigators target violent criminals in several key areas, including tackling child abuse investigations.

We have a shared responsibility and shared commitment to ensure every child lives a life free from abuse. Prevention through education is key.

If you’re concerned about a child in your life, call us at 713-221-6000. If you want to remain anonymous, report tips to Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS.

We are grateful for the opportunity to stand together with the many partners in our region who work to end child abuse for all.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrating Our Differences

During the month of April, hundreds of our sworn personnel will proudly wear a commemorative blue badge on their uniform that prominently features the autism awareness puzzle piece to bring attention to Autism Spectrum Disorder and to support those living with it.

We are in our communities across Harris County every day, and this is a small way to send a big message: We’re here to serve all residents with compassion and understanding.

The distinctive light blue badge with the puzzle piece emblem and engraved words “Help Create a Kinder World” reinforces our promise to do all we can to improve our interactions with residents, including those with a developmental disability or those experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis. It serves as a reminder to residents of what we can accomplish together.

This is the first year of the Blue Badges for Autism Awareness program and the Sheriff’s Office ordered 734 commemorative badges, more than any other law enforcement agency in the nation!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 54 children has autism. Just this year, deputies responded to more than 1,370 calls for service with a mental health component. Many of those calls involved a person with autism.

Last fall, we launched a new initiative called Project Guardian to help our deputies minimize stress by alerting them in advance that they’re about to interact with a person on the autism spectrum.

The initiative is one of many innovative mental health and outreach programs supporting our patrol deputies and making our neighborhoods better places to live.

A simple interaction with law enforcement could be a traumatic situation for a person with autism. Project Guardian encourages families or caregivers to provide a photo of their loved one and their interests or characteristics, such as whether the person is sensitive to loud noises or finds bright lights upsetting.

The online registry is free and equips deputies with critical information on a person’s special needs and proven calming methods. Families are also given a Project Guardian decal to display on a front window to quickly alert deputies someone is enrolled in the program.

Project Guardian and Project Lifesaver Coordinator Deputy Schubert

For Deputy Schubert, the most rewarding part of her job is speaking with and meeting families. “They all express how grateful they are that we truly care about their loved ones’ well-being,” she said. “Family members share their realistic fears of their child being misunderstood for their actions. A mother once told me, ‘I want people to know that there is more of my son than what meets the eye.’”

Since its launch, we’ve enrolled over 100 participants in the program. Our team follows up on incident reports mentioning autism, informing families of the potential for Project Guardian to be life-changing.

We’ve also helped our friends at Katy Police Department roll out Project Guardian to help individuals with autism in their area. Our Behavioral Health Training Unit shared their experiences and recommendations on how to design a program that is right for their community. We’re talking to other area law enforcement agencies about implementation.

We can’t do this alone. We work closely with advocacy groups, nonprofits, and mental health care centers, such as The Harris Center, NAMI Greater Houston, The Menninger Clinic, Autism Speaks, and Autism Moms of Houston. We’re always learning more about how persons with autism may react or shut down and continue to build on our crucial crisis intervention and de-escalation training.

We encourage you to come together to create a more inclusive community that celebrates our differences.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrating Our Women in Blue

In honor of Women’s History Month, join me in celebrating the remarkable women in our agency who have dedicated their lives to serving others.

These women pursued careers in law enforcement for various reasons – many wanted to make a meaningful impact in the very community where they lived, to work toward building trust between peace officers and neighbors, and for their sheriff’s office to be as diverse as Harris County.

They don’t all wear our uniforms. They’re not all in the same division or do the same job. They work in all areas of our agency but have the same passion and drive for our mission. Whether on the front lines or behind-the-scenes, the work they do every day, individually and collectively, is important and helps make our neighborhoods a better, safer place.

At a time when our communities are growing more diverse, residents must meet deputies and police officers who look like them, who understand their community’s needs and challenges, and who share their experiences and perspectives.

We’re highlighting only a couple of the women who are taking us to new heights and leading us into a new era of policing rooted in partnerships, innovative strategies and approaches, data analysis, and proven training.

Meet Patrol Bureau Major Susan Cotter

Major Cotter oversees the largest and most visible component of the agency often tasked with providing the initial response to calls for service.

She joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1991 as a certified jailer. She has since served in several roles, including a juvenile probation drill instructor, patrol deputy, accident investigator, auto theft investigator, drug recognition expert instructor, and standardized field sobriety testing instructor.

Major Cotter’s passion for safe roadways has set the bar in traffic enforcement. She’s had a big impact in the fight against preventable crashes and deaths throughout her public service career.

Major Cotter speaks with urgency about the need for law enforcement to be in the community interacting with residents about the day-to-day happenings in their neighborhoods. She still enjoys being in a patrol vehicle and responding to scenes.

Meet Detention Support Services Bureau Major Eleanor Jones

Major Jones joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1989 as a certified jailer. She has since held many roles and assignments, including Motorist Assistance Program deputy, narcotics investigator, homicide detective, shift and unit supervisor, and division commander.

Major Jones now oversees a broad number of critical support functions that are an integral part of the Criminal Justice Command and serve the more than 8,000 incarcerated persons in our care. This bureau provides detainees with food, transportation to medical care, proper sanitation conditions for personal hygiene, clergy visitations, access to legal resources, and literacy and rehabilitation programs.

She understands the importance of investing in people to reach their full potential. These programs, resources, and opportunities empower people with the tools, skills, and support to be successful when returning to their communities.

Our women in blue are showing our young girls and future leaders that they, too, can succeed as a patrol deputy, investigator, detention officer, crime analyst, dispatcher, victim advocate, command staff member, or as any of the other essential roles throughout our agency. They have given the next generation a chance to see themselves in them and feel empowered to chart their own course.

Communities need more women in law enforcement. We’re seeking diverse perspectives and want to hire and promote those who embody our core values. If you’re looking to make a difference, learn more about our career opportunities here.

This month is a moment for us to pause and honor the hardworking women in our agency. We’re grateful for their daily dedication, countless contributions, and commitment to our profession.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Street Racing Has No Place on Our Roadways

Street racing is a dangerous and growing concern within our community that stretches to every corner of our region and far beyond our state.

Earlier this week, we joined our partners from the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, and Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office at Houston Raceway Park’s starting line to urge car race fans to practice their hobby on legal racetracks and not on our roads and highways.

The call for an end to the street racing and public road takeovers that have plagued our roadways comes as race aficionados converge in Baytown this week for TX2K21 Roll & Drag Race Nationals. TX2K has evolved into the premier streetcar event in the country, drawing thousands of car enthusiasts for the annual, days-long affair featuring roll racing, drag racing, and a car show.

This event has given drivers a safe and legal way to race each other and spectators a safe environment to cheer them on. It’s a controlled environment surrounded by experienced track officials and medical staff.

We stand shoulder to shoulder in our efforts to double down on our mission to keep racing on the tracks and off our streets. We’re grateful for responsible business owners and car enthusiasts, like Houston Raceway Park owner Seth Angel, who lead by example and put the safety of our community front and center.

We know the overwhelming majority of TX2K attendees understand how to have fun while respecting the safety of others. We know many are just as frustrated at those who make the misguided choice to race on the same roads our family and loved ones use every day.

We have seen the deadly consequences and devastation firsthand. Just last month, our patrol deputies and traffic investigators responded to a tragic incident that resulted in a crash that ended the lives of two teenage brothers and an onlooker visiting Houston from New Jersey.

In response to the growing problem, we established a Traffic Crimes Unit centered on every aspect of street racing culture, parking lot takeovers, and stunt driving. These deputies are on the front lines of shutting down aggressive drivers, responding to tips and areas of concern from residents, and working with our patrol districts and partners on conducting regular initiatives.

We will be out in full force throughout spring break targeting street racers. There will also be unmarked patrol vehicles and air support to assist with calls for service and to spot street races from the air.

Our dedicated Traffic Crimes Unit has written traffic citations, made felony arrests on charges that include reckless driving, racing on a highway, and deadly conduct, and made misdemeanor arrests for DWI and other offenses. Our deputies have also seized numerous vehicles that were used to commit these crimes.

As we’re making arrests, we’re also seeing other criminal activity.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has reportedly seen about 90 cars seized by law enforcement agencies participating in this joint initiative. Beyond seizing the cars, the District Attorney’s Office is moving to forfeit vehicles involved in at-risk car crimes.

For those seeking an outlet to relieve the stresses brought on by the pandemic; or those looking for a proving ground, Houston Raceway Park welcomes drivers to safely race on their track as many times as they want on any Friday night for just $20.

Public safety is a shared responsibility. You play a critical role in keeping your neighborhood safe and we rely on you to be the extra eyes and ears on your block.

We need your continued support. If you know someone who is racing or playing a part in organizing street takeovers, report them. For those encouraging or spreading the word about these underground activities, you can be a party to some of these crimes.

Report street racing activities:

If you’re a race fan, don’t give street racers an audience. It’s dangerous. It emboldens them.

If you’re attending TX2K21, don’t let the racing spill into the streets after the event.

Don’t risk your life or the lives of others. The short-lived adrenaline and thrill aren’t worth a lifetime of heartache and devastation if an innocent life is lost.

We cannot do this alone. This truly is a collaborative effort on all fronts. It takes all of us doing our part to address this serious issue.

Safety is our priority, and we stand together and ready to protect the residents we serve.

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