Offenses down in 2nd half of year; business leader says strip has gotten safer, questions statistics
A roughly 1-square-mile area that includes the Cedar Springs entertainment district recorded the fourth-most violent offenses of any of Dallas’ 26 worst crime hotspots in 2009, according to statistics obtained this week by Dallas Voice.
The statistics show that while violent crime dipped 23.5 percent in 2009 across the 26 hotspots, known as Target Area Action Grids, the number of offenses increased 2 percent in the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG.
Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle told Dallas Voice he’s unsure what factors may be causing the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG to buck the trend of violent crime reductions. Although citywide statistics hadn’t been released by Thursday, Jan. 14, Kunkle said he expected violent crime to be down by 8-9 percent overall for 2009.
"I don’t really have a good answer to the question," Kunkle said. "Some places it’s easier to have an idea why decreases are occurring — or in some cases why increases may be occurring — but I don’t have a good sense of why the Cedar Springs Wycliff area was up a little bit for the year, when most of the other TAAG areas are down."
Kunkle noted that while violent crime was up 2 percent in the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG in 2009, it was down 13 percent in the second half of the year compared to the first half. At one point
during the year, the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG had recorded the second-most violent offenses, behind only the Northwest Highway/Harry Hines TAAG. When Dallas Voice first reported on the TAAG statistics in early September, Cedar Springs/Wycliff was at No. 3 behind Northwest Highway/Harry Hines and Five Points.
Kunkle said this week that the statistics shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG is the fourth-most dangerous area of the city for violent crime, because offenses aren’t recorded on a per capita basis.
"I don’t know a part of the city that has more density of people just being out than that area has — just people walking, milling around, walking to the store, hanging out at bus stops, all sorts of good and bad things," Kunkle said. "It certainly seems like it’s the most street activity of any part of the city that I can think of. … A lot of this is driven by the fact that this an area full of people."
Kunkle also said the statistics won’t result in any immediate, drastic changes to the Police Department’s strategy in Oak Lawn. But he noted that DPD’s Northwest Division, which is responsible for most of the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG, received 41 additional officers for 2010 as part of the department’s annual bidding process.
Asked whether the department is considering expanding its LGBT liaison officer position, Kunkle reiterated that he’s open to the idea but doesn’t believe it’s necessary right now. The LGBT community liaison officer is Laura Martin, who’s currently assigned to a full-time bicycle patrol at White Rock Lake.
Some in the LGBT community want the liaison position to become full time, with the officer based at Resource Center Dallas, which is situated the heart of the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG.
"We would if we need to. I don’t know that we need to," Kunkle said of expanding the position. "My understanding is that she’s [Martin is] available for whatever she needs to do."
Others said they don’t believe statistics from the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG are an accurate reflection of the crime situation in and around the city’s largest gay entertainment district. While the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG includes the strip, it also stretches beyond Harry Hines Boulevard and Lemmon Avenue in some places on either side. The largest number of violent crimes in the TAAG in 2009 occurred in an area near Maple and Wycliff avenues.
"It’s not fair," said Scott Whittall, co-owner of Buli CafÃ© and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association. "Cedar Springs has gotten a bad rap by association because of this huge area that they put us in."
Whittall said in the six years since Buli opened, there’s been a big reduction in things like vagrancy and panhandling on the strip.
"Our first year here, it was crazy how much you had to police the people sleeping on your porch or begging for money, and that’s just not happening anymore," Whittall said.
"I think that it’s been amazing, especially in the last year, how much better the situation is on Cedar Springs in general."
Nancy Weinberger, a volunteer who leads the Oak Lawn Apartment Managers and Stakeholders Crime Watch group, also questioned whether the TAAG is the best way to look at crime in the area.
"When I think of Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs, I think of a much smaller area than what the TAAG district is," Weinberger said, adding that she believes the crime situation in Oak Lawn is relatively unchanged from what it has been in previous years.
Lt. Paul Stokes, acting commander of DPD’s Northwest Division, said that according to more traditional statistics, overall crime was down 6-10 percent in 2009 in a smaller area that can be defined as Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs. But Stokes said violent crime was up 17 percent in the smaller area, a much larger increase than in the TAAG. Overall crime includes property offenses such as burglary and auto theft, while violent crime is limited to murder, robbery, rape and aggravated assault. The TAAG statistics include only violent crime.
Stokes said despite the addition of the 41 officers, the department still lacks the manpower to assign permanent beat officers to the Cedar Springs strip.
He also said a proposal to add surveillance cameras on Cedar Springs is stalled at the City Council.
CRIME BY THE NUMBERS
The city’s 26 worst crime hotspots, known as Target Area Action Grids, recorded a combined 23.3 percent drop in violent crime in 2009. Below are the five TAAGs that recorded the most violent offenses in 2009:
1. NW Hwy/Harry Hines:
Number of offenses in 2009: 246
Number of offenses in 2008: 298
Change: -17.4 percent
2. 5 Points
Number of offenses 2009: 208
Number of offenses 2008: 355
Change: -41.4 %
Number of offenses 2009: 207
Number of offenses 2008: 318
Change: -34.9 %
4. Cedar Springs/Wycliff
Number of offenses 2009: 183
Number of offenses 2008: 179
5. Jefferson Corridor
Number of offenses 2009: 179
Number of offenses 2008: 176
Change: +1.7 %
Here is a breakdown of violent offenses that occurred in the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG in 2009:
Agg. Assault: 29
Despite an overall increase for 2009, the Cedar Springs/Wycliff TAAG saw a decrease in violent offenses during the last six months of the year compared to the first six months:
July 1-Dec. 31: 85
Jan. 1-June 30: 98
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 15, 2010.