Creating a Sliver of Hope on Las Vegas Trail

When the Star-Telegram began a child abuse project in early 2017, reporters Deanna Boyd, Diane Smith and Jeff Caplan, among others, were charged with finding and telling compelling stories to reflect the many levels of child abuse, from how homicides are ruled on by the medical examiner, the role of an educator in reporting child abuse and what neighborhoods serve as breeding grounds for abuse and neglect.

Deanna found that some child abuse homicides were being ruled undetermined for a variety of reasons and her dogged reporting led to the arrest of a mother on a charge capital murder.

Diane told the stories of young victims who survived child abuse and why teachers are on the front line of reporting abuse.

Jeff, however, found a gold mine of stories in the Las Vegas Trail neighborhood in west Fort Worth.

To most the neighborhood is nothing more than an exit sign along Interstate 30 in west Fort Worth, but after Jeff’s story ran it became known in city circles as “Fort Worth’s dirty little secret.”

The poverty-stricken area was thick with drugs and crime and single parents, shoddy hotels and rundown apartments with unforgiving landlords, a lack of child care and overcrowded schools.

The reaction to the Star Telegram’s stories was stunning:

  • City officials took a bus tour of the area and created a task force to address issues.

  • The Star-Telegram held a town hall meeting and more than 450 people, some angry, some wanting to help and all concerned, shows up. They wanted answers, results. In the weeks that followed they got some:

    • The Knights Inn motel, ground zero for the everything that is wrong with Las Vegas Trail, was put on notice by city officials that things were about to change — and they have.

    • Apartments are facing lawsuits.

    • A YMCA, which most residents could not afford, will soon be turned into a community center.

    • A much-needed washer and dryer were donated to a Las Vegas Trail pre-K school.

    • A food pantry was opened at a high school.

    • Surveillance cameras were installed by Fort Worth police.

The task force is still formulating its next move after a series of community meetings.