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MARY MEAUX — Kids absorb destruction of violence in dangerous ways

The little boy couldn’t have been much older than 3, 4 at the most, clutching a green stuffed dinosaur as he walked happily on a sidewalk.

As he did so, a handful of adults cried, wailed, lifted their arms into the air as if to ask a higher power the question, “Why?”

The boy reached a girl and the two played, zigzagging between the slower moving adults. They were seemingly oblivious to the yellow crime scene tape, evidence markers and red and blue lights from the numerous police cars nearby.

Yet another shooting death had taken place at the apartment complex.

This scene was real, not imagined or exaggerated, and happened recently in Port Arthur. The sight of children so close to violence and death is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s not their, or their parents’ fault.

It’s a sad reality in today’s society, and this has become the normal for people living in high-crime, often low-income areas.

This kind of exposure to violence is detrimental to children; that’s obvious.

In 2016, Healthychildren.org released a story on childhood exposure to violence, listing some of the problems associated with exposure to violent acts; some kids may be afraid, some may want to stay home, have trouble sleeping or concentrating in school. They may lose their appetite or complain of headaches, stomachaches or other issues.

A local school administrator once spoke of how some children in a West Side elementary school worried about their moms when they saw police lights at the nearby apartment complex where they lived — likely a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and possibly a fear that would stay with them emotionally the rest of their lives.

But what is the lasting impact on children?

The website says kids exposed to violence may learn to resolve their own conflicts in a violent manner, while some turn inward and avoid others. All of this can lead to mental and physical problems, failure in school, alcohol or drug abuse and crime.

So, what is the answer to the problem?

It’s not as easy as telling the parent to move to a safer location. While a police presence can be a deterrent to crime, officers can’t be everywhere.

While the above-mentioned scene played at an apartment complex in the city, it plays out time and time again locally and across the U.S.

There is no easy answer.

Mary Meaux is a reporter with The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.