Harris County has launched another program aimed at reducing violent crime. This one focuses on at-risk youth with a goal of stopping crimes before they happen.

The $4 million program will support local organizations that work with at-risk youth and strategies that focus on diverting young people away from the criminal justice system, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a news conference last week.

“It’s a powerful initiative that will help young people stay out of trouble and stay on track for a successful life,” Judge Hidalgo said. “This type of strategy is a no-brainer.”

County leaders say research shows that investing in early childhood intervention lowers the likelihood that at-risk youth become criminals when they get older. 

Hidalgo said it’s the latest in a series of county initiatives to combat the soaring rate of violent crime in our city,

“We’re dealing with a local and nationwide gundemic responsible for an increased rate of homicide,” Hidalgo said. She said the current revolving-door justice system must change.

“It’s not fair to communities, it’s not fair for taxpayers, it’s not fair for the next generation of leaders, of citizens, for our kids who deserve to grow up with confidence that they have a criminal justice system that works,” Hidalgo said.

A local non-profit called Change Happens will oversee the Youth Reinvestment Fund in partnership with other grassroots organizations. The group provides mentoring, education, prevention and intervention services to young people identified as at risk. 

Harris County Commissioners Court approved the program last month. It’s part of over $1.4 billion for justice and public safety approved earlier this year.