BELTON, TX — A shooting Thursday night in Belton has left a teenager dead, and has some in the area wondering if their town remains as safe as they remember.
Just how bad has teen violence become in that community, in Central Texas and around the country?
Belton has, unfortunately, dealt with at least two high profile cases of teen violence this year.
It comes as the local regional and national rate of teen violence has actually gone down from it's peak.
"As I was getting ready to leave work, Belton PD. came down the street..." said Gary Reagan, who didn't know at the time that those police cars he saw flying by stopped at nearby Lyons Park, where 16-year-old Fernando Martinez of Belton lay wounded.
He later died at a local hospital.
"It's sad to hear in our community...We're a small community things like that don't happen very often here," said Reagan.
Belton is the kind of town that shows concern for victims of crime before it even thinks about the impact on public safety.
"I feel kinda sad for this young boy who barely got to live his life," said Isa Jaramillo in Spanish.
But the Martinez killing has some wondering if it marks an increase in teen violence.
The problems started in January when a Belton 15-year-old died from a gunshot wound just outside his family's apartment.
This country did have a problem with rising teen violence in the mid 1990's.
The U.S. Justice Department detailed it in a 1996 report.
Since then, teen crime has actually trended downward, with some peaks along the way.
Numbers from Belton Police reflect a similar pattern with teen felony arrests at similar or lower levels over the past five years.
Certainly it doesn't get the attention it once did, but parents here, say it'll never escape their notice.
"Am I afraid? a little bit, yes, because of my children..." said Jaramillo.
Parents say they can't just take it in stride.
"It's a little scary but I believe our police department does a well job of policing our community and taking care of things," explained Reagan.
And Beltonians have come to depend on their police department to take care of business.
"I feel like we are very safe in this community," said Reagan.
In the meantime, the investigation into this latest case of teen violence continues.
Witnesses reported seeing a white chevy sedan getting away from the shooting scene last night.
if you know anything about this crime, call Belton Police and tell them, or if you want to remain anonymous, call Bell County Crimestoppers at 254-526-8477 (TIPS).