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article imageWomen being snatched from parking lots in Houston, Texas?

By Nikki Weingartner     Feb 24, 2009 in Crime
In 2008, Houston was ranked as number 48 out of 385 cities in America for criminal activity. Just this month, two Houston women have disappeared from shopping areas, with one still missing and one found shot and discarded. How safe are we?
People across the country love a train wreck, with hundreds and even thousands willing to show up and watch as bodies are pulled from the wreckage. That same lot might enjoy reading, or hearing second hand, just how their city fared amongst other big cities in the United States as far as criminal activity goes. In 2008, a comprehensive ranking using FBI data as a measure of criminal activity assessed nearly 400 cities in America from worst to best as far as safety.
Topping that list was New Orleans, LA, followed by Camden, NJ, Detroit, MI, St. Louis, MO and Oakland, CA. In fact, in the top 20 worst cities, the states of California, Ohio, Florida and Michigan made the list twice each. But it isn't until we get into the 34th most unsafe city that we begin to see Texas on the list, with Dallas making the state's debut and further down the line at number 48 is the booming metropolis of Houston.
But is this data misleading to those looking for a safe place to live?
Three days ago, a 27-year-old woman named Sabrina Pina set out on what her husband called a "routine" shopping trip. When she failed to return home, police were notified and Pina's vehicle was found in a popular department store parking lot. Texas Equusearch began its search for the young woman but that proved empty. A passing motorist noticed a body the next morning in a ditch along a roadside about 15 miles from where Pina's vehicle had been found. The body was identified as Sabrina Pina, with no further details released except having been shot and obviously discarded. Police continue to investigate and reportedly having removed evidence from Pina's vehicle.
As far as her husband of three years, it was said that the two were "deeply" in love. Police believe her death to be a homicide, stating that she was probably abducted in the afternoon. Her purchases from earlier in the day were found in her vehicle. She had called her husband around noon from Home Depot to ask about a garbage disposal and then was captured later on camera at Sonic. They believe she disappeared sometime between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm.
A tragic ending to a tragic tale. However, not one that is so uncommon it seems. On the opposite side of the city on February 3, Susana De Jesus was leaving the store where she worked just after 9 pm. She had just closed the store and was walking with a co-worker to her car. Police say that two armed men ambushed her and then one of the men forced her into her own vehicle. The other armed man got into another vehicle in which both men had arrived.
The son of the co-worker called 911 and reported the abduction. De Jesus' car, a 2008 Cadillac, was later found abandoned at an apartment complex. Shortly after her abduction, a man was filmed using her ATM/Bank Card while in her car but no signs of De Jesus were evident. Additional evidence was released yesterday showing:
an African-American or dark-complected Hispanic male. He's wearing a red T-shirt, [and the] man wore gloves to perhaps cover up a distinctive tattoo or watch. He was also right-handed.
There have been no additional clues turn up in the case of the missing 37-year-old woman taken by gunpoint after walking to her car. Only a flier pleading for help and the safe return of this young woman.
Susana De Jesus is still missing.
Women, by nature, are vulnerable to certain types of attacks and should be wary of walking alone across parking lots or in parking garages. However, in both of these stories, the women seemed to endure some kind of twist of the norm, with one being isolated and abducted leaving behind a co-worker. The other, taken at some point during a shopping trip and found discarded a few miles away as if she had been tossed out. Both women from the Houston area; both women Hispanic; both women in shopping type situations. So many unanswered questions in both cases.
Back in October, a report revealed that Houston is seeing an increase in attempted kidnappings specifically at busstops or with children walking to school and that boys may be targeted more often than girls.
Remember: living in a safe city doesn't mean that you don't live in the top 25 worst locations.
[update] Police have narrowed down the time of abduction and location, saying that Sabrina Pina was seen shopping inside the Kohl's store where her truck was found. It was also reported that she had coffee with her husband at around 9:30 am just before he went to work. Crime Stoppers is offering $5,000 in reward money and Pina's employer, TXU Energy is offering $25,000 reward to any tipster that results in an arrest. Detectives have not released any information regarding Pina's killer.
[update #2] Arrest made around 7pm in the Pina Case according to a television news report at 10 pm Central. No charges have been filed yet. No other information was released.
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