Police and city officials met with businesses and community members to discuss recent attacks in Oak Lawn
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston, Northwest Division Police Chief Catrina Shead and about 10 police officers and members of the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force met with a packed house at Resource Center Wednesday, Oct. 21, to discuss community safety. The meeting addressed a series of attacks that have happened in Oak Lawn that began the night of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
At least three victims of attacks spoke at the meeting.
Shead called the recent attacks horrific and said she’s added more foot patrols and patrol cars to the entertainment district. Plainclothes detectives will also be assigned to the area, she said.
Because police alone can’t keep everyone completely safe, Shead listed some common sense ways people can stay safer: Walk in well-lit and busier areas. Don’t walk alone. Pay attention to your surroundings, not your phone.
If you see something suspicious, dial 911 or use the iWatch app to send info or photos anonymously, Shead recommended.
Other suggestions came from the audience. One suggested that a group leaving a bar for separate cars should instead walk together to one car and that car should drive the others to their cars.
Area resident John Anderson circulated a petition this week calling for more cameras, lighting and action by the neighborhood, and his petition was discussed at the meeting. Medrano said he drove the neighborhood and reported all out street lights to Oncor. Those should be fixed by this weekend.
City bond money planned for Cedar Springs improvements may be diverted to safety upgrades. Medrano said the LGBT Task Force that he chairs would appoint a committee to look into that possibility.
After the meeting Medrano spoke to Blake, survivor of the only recent attack police are officially labeling a hate crime, rather than a crime of opportunity, because of anti-gay language used during the attack. Medrano asked Blake to serve on the committee.
Money may be used to add lighting to dark streets behind the main entertainment area, where most people park. That money may also help add camera throughout the area. Round-Up Saloon owner Alan Pierce said he was adding security cameras outside the bar. Attendees called on all area bars, restaurants and stores to do the same.
One suggestion from an attendee was to add blue light call buttons that connect automatically to the police every block or two. Shead said she’s heard from police in other cities that those work well in entertainment districts.
Burke Burnett, survivor of a vicious anti-gay attack in Reno, Texas in 2011, now lives in Dallas and attended the meeting. He said a support group for survivors is helpful. He noted the state offers victim services that helps with medical bills and legal services so that attackers, if caught, will be charged correctly.
Assistant D.A. Craig McNeil chairs the Dallas County District Attorney’s LGBT Task Force and said the D.A.’s office has been tracking the situation. He also said there is compensation to assist victims.
Officers attending said reducing crime in an area only works when police, city, businesses and the community work together. They called the large turnout a great start.
The attacks that were addressed began the night of this year’s Pride parade when Blake, who has asked that his last name not be used while his assailants are still at large, was attacked on a side street near Cedar Springs Road. He was walking to a friend’s house from a bar.
He was hit in the head and dragged into a car. In the car, he was repeatedly hit and then was dumped on Sylvester Street off Wycliff Avenue, where he was presumably left to die.
His phone was the only thing stolen so he could not call for help. A neighbor heard Blake’s screams and came to his aid. He was taken to Parkland Hospital and needed 40 stitches in his head, but is now recovering well.
Burnett was attacked at a private party in 2011. Four men jumped him, stabbing him at least twice with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a fire. He has recovered from his injuries and two of his attackers were convicted and are serving time in prison.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 23, 2015.