interview by Kimberly Davis Guerra
Want to meet Rania, join us on April 29th for the Summer Edition of the Mommie Series where she will be one of the guest speakers! Visit themommieseries.com for more information.
When you think of the CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston, I wager to bet that the last image that comes to mind is a soft-spoken, petite mom of three hailing from Boston. However, as I’m sure you have found, looks can be deceiving.
Rania Mankarious made Houston her home by rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty. Citing a personal mission to serve families and engage the public to better society, Mankarious did the unthinkable and made the extraordinary move of taking an internship at Crime Stoppers of Houston in 2006 – even though she was an attorney with a master’s degree. Mankarious knew she had to be a part of Crime Stoppers, an organization unlike any other, and push it to its full potential. She worked vigorously and by 2008 became the organization’s Director of Marketing. Catching the eye of the community in March 2013, she was chosen to lead Houston’s leading public safety non-profit organization, Crime Stoppers of Houston, as the Executive Director. After positively impacting abused children, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, homeless animals, entire student bodies and school campuses, neighborhoods and businesses, Mankarious was named Crime Stoppers first CEO in 2018.
Through her years at the helm and working side-by-side her incredible team, Mankarious’ legacy has been well established. Described by some as “Crime Stoppers on steroids”, her footprint has elevated the organization to new heights. She’s created the first ever Crime Stoppers Safe School Institute – a full suite direct service program that got the attention of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. She was asked to train the entire state of Texas and Crime Stoppers organizations nationwide on proactive school safety. In the fall of 2019, she will launch Crime Stoppers’ first webinar series with local, statewide, and national experts. Other firsts for Mankarious include launching and expanding the organization’s Safe Community Program, Parents Against Crime, and the critically important Fallen Hero Program.
We recently sat down for a cup of coffee to find out about the woman behind all the achievements.
Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to Houston.
I was born and raised outside of Boston, MA in a town called Framingham. I attended Boston College where I received a dual degree in Psychology and theology and minored in Pre-med. I loved to study and would have done anything to extend my time at BC! I finished and went onto do a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and then Law school. I met my husband, Ramy Mankarious, when he was doing his residency at MASS General. He was a native Houstonian. We ended up getting married and I moved to Houston. That was 2004.
When we met, you discussed the motivation to ‘soften’ Crime Stoppers. Can you expand on that?
Since its inception in 1980, Crime Stoppers has been focused on its mission to “solve and prevent crime”. For the longest time, the “solving and preventing” focused on finding wanted felony criminals and bringing them to justice – the idea was that in doing so, you solved a crime and by placing a felony criminal behind bars, you prevented further criminal activity. While on some level, that’s true, I saw “prevention” very differently. To me, there was a whole world behind crime prevention that meant engaging parents on topics that were of interest to them (the safety of their children, their kids schools, their homes, their kids online, etc.) or homeowners, business owners, animal lovers, etc. Crime prevention was a world of research and study, education and discussions that brought people into the conversation. The truth is, everyone cares about their health and everyone cares about their public safety. In creating content that applied to everyone, we broadened our reach and base and eventually, through many years of hard work, became Houston’s Neighborhood Public Safety nonprofit and the hub for all things public safety related.
What do you think the biggest misconception is about the organization?
One of the biggest misconceptions about our organization is that we are a part of the police department or that the only tool we offer the community is our anonymous tip line. The truth is, we are an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. We have proudly partnered with law enforcement since our inception and created a wonderful, first-of-its-kind, community driven public safety organization. We have three main programs – our Tip Line Program (which operates our anonymous tip line and partners with law enforcement); our Safe Schools Institute (which sends trained staff into schools to talk to and train students, teachers, school administration and school based law enforcement on roughly 10 crime trends / topic that kids are dealing with right now) and our Safe Community Program (which sends trained staff into the community to talk to businesses, neighborhoods, parents, and community stakeholders/partners/media, etc about all the crime trends and issues that they need to be aware of). Beyond our three main programs, we also offer Victim Services, have the first-ever Crime Stoppers headquarters and Memorial Garden for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
What would you like to say to the Houston parents about public safety?
The risks kids face right now do not necessarily stem from their schools or where they live but rather who they are engaged with online. Our hope is that parents understand that as long as kids have a way to connect to others via social media, they face potential risks that are very real – we are seeing kids targeted by human traffickers online; we are seeing kids blackmailed for photos online; we are seeing kids stalked, followed, harassed, bullied and abused online. Couple this with the fact that parents are overwhelmed by all the newest gadgets, apps, social media platforms etc. and you have a situation where kids navigate an online world with little guidance. We work hard to address this through our cyber-safety presentations for kids and our Parents Guide to Cyber-safety presentations for parents.
What is the best way for parents to get involved?
Understand the risks; be reasonable in your requests (you can’t ask kids to fully stay off social media); talk and talk and talk to your kids in an age appropriate manner about the issues they may face; know what apps your kids are on and all their passwords; balance privacy with good parenting; be involved in your child’s school; know their safety plans.
As a mom of two, what is your biggest fear for your own family?
I don’t allow my head to go there, but I am always talking to my kids about safety.
What is the best professional advice you were ever given?
If you don’t know how to do something, say so – but then do everything in your power to figure it out.
What was the best parenting advice you were ever given?
Be present and shower your children with love.
If you want to learn more about Crime Stoppers of Houston, please visit their site www.crime-stoppers.org