Oak Lawn safety discussed at packed house

Posted on 22 Oct 2015 at 11:38am

Chief C.M. Shead

Dallas City Council members Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston joined Northwest Division Police Chief Catrina Shead and about 10 police officers and members of the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force to meet Wednesday night, Oct. 21,  with a packed house at Resource Center 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 area. Plain clothes detectives would 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, the chief recommended.

Other suggestions came from the audience. One said that a group leaving a bar for separate cars should  walk together to one car and then the driver of that car should drive the others to their cars.

A petition circulated this week calling for more cameras, lighting and action by the neighborhood was discussed. Medrano said he drove the neighborhood and reported all out street lights to Oncor. Those should be fixed by this weekend.

City bond money 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 he spoke to Blake, survivor of the only 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 2011 attack in Reno, Texas, now lives in Dallas and attended the meeting. He said a support group for survivors is helpful. He said 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.

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