HOUSTON – Mareja Pratt, 16, lost her life after police say she was shot and killed over something as trivial as a beef with someone on social media.
Family members said the Elsik High School 10th-grader was being picked on by someone on Instagram over the last few months.
“Our kids are sort of running amok in this world that they are not cut out to handle. They’re not able to navigate and it’s leading to dangerous results,” said Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston.
Cyber safety and education for kids and parents is among the many community programs and initiatives Crime Stoppers of Houston is involved in, reaching 1.3 million kids in Harris County and beyond through direct presentations, talking about every possible crime-related issue.
“We literally never been as busy as we are now,” Manakarious said.
To sustain that kind of engagement takes more than just commitment.
“Our programs are where all of our expenses are. They’re growing, they’re swelling based upon the direct needs of the community,” Mankarious said.
Crime Stoppers of Houston had to cancel their two major fundraisers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s had a profound impact on its ability to raise money.
“I’m worried (about) what does that mean for our organization going forward into next year. There are many services our organization provides that we just can’t walk away from. we’re not going to put them down. we just need to find a way to meet the demands,” Mankarious said.
Crime Stoppers of Houston operates on a $2 million a year budget. By this time last year, $1.352 million had been raised. So far this year, $608,796 has been raised, leaving them with a staggering shortfall of more than $1.3 million.
“There’s a lot of people in this community that love the work that we do but they may not have thought about us yet. we’re hoping they are going to think of us before end of year giving,” Mankarious said.
If the donations from foundations come through, they will potentially still need to raise $275,000 by the end of the year to close the gap.
“We’re very resourceful. We’re very fiscally responsible. We’ve been that way for 40 years and we are going to continue. We are going to figure a way out of this like we do everything else,” Mankarious said.