Group notified this week that 45 new lights will be erected in the area within 60 days
DRACONIS VON TRAPP | Intern
After a year of pushing the city for more streetlights in Oak Lawn, Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats saw their efforts pay off this week when city officials announced plans to install 45 new lights in the area.
“We’re excited and think it’s a great thing for the community,” DSYD President Jared Pearce said. “We decided to take on the challenge of improving the street light situation in Oak Lawn because many of us have friends who have been victims of crime in this area. The fact that city officials have listened to us and are taking action to resolve this problem gives us even more drive to make changes that can benefit the entire community.”
The Oak Lawn neighborhood has been afflicted with a disproportionately high crime rate and lack of appropriate street lighting. After a series of muggings in the neighborhood, DSYD got together as a board and the topic of street lighting came up. They then created what is now known as the “Light Up Oak Lawn” campaign.
DSYD then held another meeting at JR’s with members of the community and local businesses to rally support, deciding to take the issue to the City Council, namely District 14 representative Angela Hunt and District 2 representative Pauline Medrano.
Volunteers went on foot around the Oak Lawn area one night and did their own preliminary audit, recording the number of broken streetlights and places that were cloaked in darkness, also taking note of foot traffic and the proximity of residential and business housing.
Along with their audit, DSYD vols also did research on the correlation between street lighting and crime in other cities around the U.S. and the U.K., trying to make as convincing a case as possible. They then took all their blood, sweat and tears and got in contact with Hunt and Medrano.
Nearly seven months later, nothing had been done. DYSD reached out to remind city officials of nearly every mugging that happened in that area — but still no cigar.
“We didn’t want to count on the city for funding,” DYSD Communications Director Michael Maldonado said. “So we went to the city officials to determine what we would need to do and how much it would cost.”
City officials told the group they needed a more thorough audit of the area in which they wanted streetlights erected. So, DSYD volunteers went out and did it all again, making sure to leave no streetlight unchecked and no dark corner unrecorded.
They contacted the city officials again with their new information and finally started to see some progress.
Maldonado said that he doesn’t think the crime in the Oak Lawn area is necessarily LGBT-related, but that there’s “genuinely a lot of traffic in that area,” making it an ideal site for criminals to strike.
In April, the city’s Street Services Department received the DYSD audit and promised look it over and give recommendations.
After an article published in Dallas Voice about yet another mugging, DSYD members finally got the approval to have streetlights posted at every location noted in the audit.
Oncor, the corporation responsible for the lighting in Dallas, was given a work order to put up 45 streetlights within 60 days. The lights will improve visibility and hopefully decrease the night time crime rate in the area bounded by Oak Lawn Avenue, Lemmon Avenue, Wycliff Avenue and Maple Avenue, Maldonado said.
Hunt said she believes the new lights will increase safety not only for the LGBT community of Dallas, but also the residential and business communities that make their home in the Oak Lawn area.
“This is a terrific example of the community and City Hall working together to improve a vital area,” Hunt said.
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