A shocking discovery in a Huntsville, Texas playground has residents on edge. During a routine inspection, razor blades were found welded to playground slides. In a possibly related incident, a shopper at the Huntsville Target was sliced by a utility knife blade “attached” to a shopping cart. Police are asking citizens to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious to Walker County Crime Stoppers.
Huntsville is a small community located north of Houston along the edge of Sam Houston National Forest. According to a press release issued by HPD July 10, a “heating device,” (possibly a lighter or pocket torch) is being used to melt the plastic on playground slides enough to embed single edge razor blades into the surface. No children have been injured.
A routine inspection of playground equipment led to the July 6 discovery of slide sabotage at Emancipation Park and Boettcher Mill Road park. Initial reports of multiple blades were later clarified. Only one blade was found to be successfully embedded, but attempts had been made to place others.
Cameras are being installed to improve park security and citizens are asked to “keep an eye out for anything suspicious.” Citizens are also being asked to refrain from using any kind of lighter or ignitor in City parks. “With the recent passage of the smoking restrictions ordinance, there should be no reason for anyone to have a lighter or any type of open flame device in use in a City park. City parks are for the safe enjoyment of all citizens. Please help us identify anyone damaging playground equipment, especially those using an open flame or acting suspiciously. Injury to a child is a third-degree felony charge. If you have information on these incidents, please contact the Huntsville Police”
City Secretary, Lee Woodward advises “We hope that all of our citizens will take a moment to visually inspect slides and other playground equipment when they’re in our parks, and of course, we hope something like this does not occur again.”
In a seemingly related incident, a Ravenwood Village Target shopper found a single edge utility knife blade after suffering “a minor injury.” The blade was somehow attached to the handle of the shopping cart but police did not release specifics. Store employees inspected the rest of the carts and no other blades were found. Again, citizens were reminded to be aware. “Citizens have been instrumental in catching these kinds of criminals in the past,” Huntsville police Chief Kevin Lunsford told Click 2 Houston. “We are concerned about the safety of our residents.”
Target quickly issued a statement, “At Target, the safety and security of our guests and team members is a top priority. As soon as our store team learned of this incident, we immediately assisted the guest. We are partnering with local law enforcement and have shared our surveillance video to assist in the investigation. Additionally, we are checking all carts at our Houston-area stores to ensure they are safe for guests.”
Similar razor blade booby traps were detected on cart handles at Walmart in Festus, Missouri, where two reports happened in one week. Michelle Patterson felt a jab on her finger as she cleaned the handle with a wipe. She bled from the cut but was more concerned about children being placed on the built-in seat. “The lady behind me had a toddler, that would have been her cart if I hadn’t been there first” Patterson said. “That’s what upsets me.” Patterson described the blade as “crooked, so the sharp end was out and it just poked me.” A second blade was spotted by a worker inspecting carts later in the week.
Residents are understandably nervous about the situation. “It’s a shame kids can’t basically come out here and have fun without being in danger,” neighbor George Perry said when he heard about the park vandalism. Kandace Babbs says her son, Traevon, won’t be playing in the park any more. “I just think it’s really sad that somebody would do something like that,” Babbs said. “It’s supposed to be a fun time for kids.”
Family counselor Melissa Templeton says fear is not the answer but teaching your children to be cautious in a dangerous world is not as challenging as it seems. “The parent needs to teach them skills in how to be more cautious. Let me show you how we can look at everything to make sure it’s safe. We can swing the swing to make sure it doesn’t fall. We can check out the slide. The slide looks okay. We can look around on the ground for hazards.”
Melissa also teaches criminology and deviant behavior at Sam Houston State and says whoever is responsible likely is impulsive and lacks maturity. “There’s a high level of excitement that goes along with sensational impulsivity, where they’re just so excited about doing it that they’re not thinking about the consequences for other people or for themselves long term,” Templeton said.