AG Paxton Issues Consumer Alert: Beware of Buying Flood-Damaged Vehicles in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton today is advising any Texan considering a used car purchase to be wary of vehicles for sale that might have suffered flood damage from Hurricane Harvey.
It’s estimated that between 500,000 and one million automobiles were submerged in floodwaters during the unprecedented disaster.
In Texas, a seller is required by law to tell prospective buyers about damage to a vehicle. If the damage is from flooding, the words “Flood Damage” must be included on the vehicle’s title. Failure to disclose that information may be a violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“While most Texas businesses and individuals are law-abiding, there are always those looking to take advantage of consumers by selling them flood-damaged vehicles in the months following a hurricane,” Attorney General Paxton said. “A cleaned-up vehicle could be a ticking time bomb with unseen damage, posing mechanical and safety risks to the buyer.
If you suspect fraud, report it to the Consumer Protection Division of my office at 1-800-621-0508. We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases.”
Attorney General Paxton and his Consumer Protection Division offer Texans the following tips to protect against buying flood-damaged vehicles:
Have the vehicle inspected by an independent, competent automotive technician who has no relation to the seller. Since flood damage is hard to spot, paying an expert mechanic for an inspection provides peace of mind.
SAN ANTONIO, TX – The City of San Antonio approved spending money on a pilot program aimed at reducing the amount of child abuse and neglects cases.
The two-year pilot program will focus on the 78207 zip code, which the state said has the highest number of reports for child abuse in Bexar County.
“You can spot them right away because they’re either quiet or they’re very mean,” said Dolores Sotomayor. “They’re just rebellious and it’s just anger or hurt that they’re carrying.”
Until two weeks ago, Sotomayor lived in the 78207 zip code. She has experienced firsthand the dangers of child abuse. A family member was convicted of sexually assaulting her 14-year-old daughter in 2011. Sotomayor said they discovered her daughter has been abused when she gave birth to a baby girl.
“It was very difficult, but I had a large support team,” Sotomayor said.
“I believe that making children a priority will be better for the whole city,” said City Council District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales.
Gonzales pushed for the city to invest $260,000 on the two-year child abuse prevention pilot program.
“It involves a promotion program where we will be training community health workers to go out into the neighborhoods and try to address this issue one-on-one,” Gonzales said.
The program will begin when the new budget starts in October.
HARDIN COUNTY, KY – Hardin County has seen a recent increase in cases involving child abuse and neglect, with a significant amount of those cases related to substance abuse, officials say.
Family Court Judge Pamela Addington has presided over family court cases for more than 13 years. She said from mid-June 2004, when was elected to the bench, to December 2004, she handled 423 neglect and abuse cases. For the whole year in 2005, that number was 739.
In 2015, there were 810 cases and in 2016, there were 860. This year, Addington and fellow Family Court Judge Brent Hall, who has been on the bench for 10 years, are on track to have more than 900 abuse and neglect cases combined, Hardin County Attorney Jennifer Oldham said.
From Jan. 1 through Aug. 14, Addington said she and Hall have had 759 child abuse and neglect cases.
In 2016, total family court filings reached 2,698 cases. Addington said the total cases of what they have done this year already is more than 2,000 and “we’re just a little over halfway point. We’re probably going to be really closely double.”
“We’ve had a significant amount of cases,” Addington said.
Hall said Hardin County’s numbers for Family Court filings have increased more than any other county in the state of Kentucky.
“Our numbers for family court filing have gone up. We’re the highest in the state as far as increase,” he said, noting the state average for increase is about nine percent, while Hardin County is about 40 percent. “It’s a huge increase in the case load.”
Assistant Hardin County Attorney Dawn Blair said she suspects a large contributor to the increase in family court filings is substance abuse.
“My gut is drugs,” she said, noting nearly 70 to 75 percent of all cases have substance abuse involved.
Oldham agreed. She said officials are “finding at the heart of many of our cases is drug use, drug addiction.”
Hall said “you can’t parent well and be on drugs.”
“We’ve known it has been the majority of our cases for a lot of years,” Hall said. “It’s sad. Our case numbers are going up because, probably, our drug numbers are going up. … It’s really disheartening to see our numbers go up like this. It’s really disheartening to see the same faces over and over again.”
Ashely Purcell, a local foster parent, said since March 2016 she has had 13 different children in her home, with the stay ranging from 48 hours to much longer.
“The majority of children we’ve had in our home were because of addictions,” she said. “I know from everything I’ve read, the drug addiction and opioids, meth all of it is just on a horrible rise and it is our children ultimately paying the price for it. And whether they are born being exposed to it, drugs, or addicted or born in an environment around it, they are still victims of drug use because it affects them long-term.”
Blair said the impact of drugs on children is well documented.
“There are all kinds of studies on adverse childhood experiences. Those have all shown to have negative impact on kids in the long run,” Blair said.
With the rise in these cases, it also means there is a rise in the number of children who are entering the foster care system.
David Vice of CASA of the Heartland said although the number of children being removed from homes has gone up, on pace to exceed last year’s total, the number of social workers, CASA volunteers or attorneys representing those cases has not increased.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings.
At 18, children have the choice to leave the state’s care or recommit to the state.. If they choose to recommit, they have the option to stay in a foster home or live in a dorm or apartment. .If they recommit to the independent living program, they still have rules to follow, which includes maintaining enrollment in school or employment. .They are able to stay in the independent living program until they turn 21.
“A lot of kids will do that and go and those are the success stories we love to hear about,” Blair said.
Hall said of those who emancipate themselves with no permanent placement, within a year, about two-thirds will be dead, homeless or in jail.
One way to potentially help keep families together and possibly avoid those statistics is family drug court, Oldham said, noting no county in Kentucky has family drug court. She said the ultimate goal is to “reunify families and get people clean.”
Oldham said local officials are looking into revenue options to start a family drug court in Hardin County. .According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, it “is a juvenile or family court docket of which selected abuse, neglect, and dependency cases are identified where parental substance abuse is a primary factor. .Judges, attorneys, child protection services, and treatment personnel unite with the goal of providing safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for children while simultaneously providing parents the necessary support and services to become drug and alcohol abstinent. .Family dependency treatment courts aid parents in regaining control of their lives and promote long-term stabilized recovery to enhance the possibility of family reunification within mandatory legal time frames.”
Oldham said she expects a family drug court to cost about $200,000 a year.
With this drug court, Oldham said “when children are in foster care because their parents are drug addicted,” they would have something “set up for actual treatment and actual monitoring through intensive drug screening and intensive management to get these families back together.”
“Right now, we have the concept, but need the money,” she said.
Blair agreed, saying family drug court would be “phenomenal,” in addition to more money for social services.
“The more barriers we can remove to help these families become self-efficient, the better off we’re all going to be,” Blair said.
Texas doctor seeks to stop Child Abuse
before it can happen
FORT WORTH, TX – A Texas doctor believes a modeling system that’s successfully identified neighborhoods, streets and even specific businesses where shootings and other crimes are likely to occur can help stop child abuse and neglect before it happens.
Dyann Daley started a nonprofit this summer to help communities create maps that can zero in on areas as small as a few city blocks where such maltreatment is likeliest to happen, helping prevent it and allowing advocacy groups to better target their limited resources.
“This approach is really focused on prevention,” said Daley, a pediatric anesthesiologist. “Because if you know where something is going to happen, then you can do something to stop it.”
Unlike the common hot spot mapping approach, which identifies high-frequency areas of child abuse and neglect based on cases that have already happened, Daley’s risk terrain modeling approach identifies other factors that indicate an area is fertile ground for abuse so that efforts can be made to head it off. Such prevention not only can save lives, but also can help at-risk children avoid the often lifelong harmful effects of maltreatment, including a likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and anxiety, and higher risk of aggressive or criminal behavior.
“Hot spots tell you where past crimes have occurred but don’t explain why,” said Joel Caplan, one of two Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice professors who created risk terrain modeling. Caplan said mapping of hot spots assumes that crimes will continue to occur in the same location.
Risk terrain modeling was initially used to understand why shootings were happening repeatedly at certain locations. Caplan said that such modeling has since been used in a variety of areas, including traffic planning and suicides, but that Daley’s work is the first he knows of applying it to maltreatment of children.
The modeling has helped police departments across the country identify areas to target and strategies to use to reduce certain crimes.
Caplan said a project in Atlantic City, N.J., found laundromats, convenience stores and vacant properties were high-risk locations for shootings and robberies. Interventions this year included police regularly checking in at the convenience stores and city officials prioritizing efforts to clean up vacant lots and board up vacant properties near those convenience stores and laundromats. He said results for the first five months show a 20 percent reduction in violent crimes.
“It gives us an idea of which risk factors we should focus on if we want to make the biggest impact, and that’s something you can’t do with hot spot mapping,” Daley said.
Daley adapted the modeling for Fort Worth as executive director of the Cook Children’s Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, a post she left in May before starting her nonprofit, Predict-Align-Prevent Inc.
After using the model to analyze 10 known risk factors for child abuse and neglect, she found the most predictive risk factors for child maltreatment in Fort Worth were incidents of domestic violence, runaways, aggravated assaults and sexual assaults.
Perhaps surprisingly, when poverty was removed as a factor, the model’s predictive accuracy improved, said Daley. She added that the most influential risk factors might change depending on the city, especially for rural versus urban areas.
The next step is determining what prevention strategies work. Daley said success will be measured by reductions in child abuse and highly correlative risk factors including violent crime, domestic violence and teen pregnancy.
Officials at the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment will spend the coming months coordinating a plan for specific interventions in Fort Worth.
“We’ve got the maps, and we think we know where the risks are increased in our specific community. The big question that has to be answered is: What are you going to do about it?” said Larry Tubb, senior vice president of the unit that oversees the center. He said strategies could include neighborhood watch groups and early childhood development centers.
David Sanders, an executive vice president at Casey Family Programs, called Daley’s work “incredibly promising” and said it now needs to be paired with research on what interventions work.
“There are a couple of interventions that seem to impact communities, but we just don’t have enough,” he said.
Daley distributed the mapping information to a variety of Fort Worth groups, noting that the prevalence of churches made them a good starting point for prevention efforts.
At the Tarrant Baptist Association, leadership director Becky Biser inserted pins into a map on the wall to mark churches of all denominations in high risk areas, helping assess what churches are doing and what more can be done.
“For me, a picture says a lot. … It’s in a lot of people’s neighborhoods,” Biser said.
Melissa Zenteno, chaplain at One Safe Place, which helps victims of domestic violence, has been talking to pastors about her organization’s services.
Some experts have concerns about the mapping approach, especially regarding interventions.
Neil Guterman, director of the violence prevention program at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, said he fears that the mapping could lead to disproportionally intervening in marginalized communities in coercive ways. He said he could see its merits, though, if it’s used the right way.
“If the tool is married with supportive strategies that we know can actually help and make a difference, then that would be very helpful,” he said