A Cedar Springs Road merchant whose stores suffered losses from shoplifters during the holiday season is asking for help in cleaning the area up of riffraff.
Dave Richardson, owner of Tapelenders, Outlines Activewear and Skivvies, said he plans to ask city officials to do something about loiterers on the street. Panhandlers, street hustlers and drug users have long plagued the area he said.
“We have some people we would love to have go away, and we can’t do anything about it,” Richardson said. “It’s gotten worse.”
Richardson said a man ran into one of his stores during the holidays and ran away with a stack of jeans. He saw the same man on the street again two days later, he said.
And last week, one of his employees chased a shoplifter down the street and carried him “like a bride over the threshold” back into the store and called police to arrest him, Richardson said. Police response time usually varies from 25 to 45 minutes, he said.
“That’s a long time when you are listening to someone rant and rave,” Richardson said.
Richardson said he believes the presence of people loitering on the sidewalks drives customers away. Entertainment districts like the Cedar Springs Road area are supposed to have a strong police presence that would discourage loiters and make customers feel safer, he said.
“To my estimation, it doesn’t look like that is happening,” said Richardson, who said he is planning to complain to the two City Council representatives, Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, who represent the area.
David Davis, captain of the Dallas Police Department’s Volunteers in Patrol, said he and other volunteers have noticed an increase in street hustlers in the neighborhood between Cedar Springs Road and Maple Avenue. He described their behavior as “brazen.”
“It is very clear what they are doing,” Davis said. “We must be getting a huge influx of them coming in from somewhere.”
Keith Allen, interactive community police officer for the Oak Lawn area, said loitering is difficult to control because people have a right to walk on the sidewalks and to pause.
It is more difficult to determine a person’s intentions in a busy entertainment area than in a residential area, he said.
“It is easier to blend in a location like that,” Allen said. “When someone is just standing there or walking back and forth there is not an obvious sign that they are soliciting for money or something else.”
Allen said police are already increasing the amount of undercover work they do in the area, especially fto combat vice crimes. The increase in undercover operations began in November, he said.
Allen said some business people on Cedar Springs Road seem to think the problem with loiterers has improved in recent months.
“I don’t know how we reconcile those two different opinions because there really is no hard data to look at,” Allen said. “I can tell you the calls for that type of thing where they call in a suspicious person or a panhandler are actually down.”
Richard Longstaff, owner of Crossroads Market and Bookstore and Union Jack, said his stores suffers shoplifting losses several times during the years, but he doubts the problem has grown worse from previous years.
“Most retailers get more shoplifting during the holiday period,” Longstaff said. “When the traffic is more, everything is magnified.”
Longstaff said he appeals to customers to refrain from giving panhandlers money.
“You are not doing anyone any favor by giving these people money,” Longstaff said. “You are only encouraging them.”
Rick Espaillat, media director for Caven Enterprises, said panhandling and hustling have been an ongoing problem for Cedar Springs Road businesses for many years. The problem may be growing for retail merchants, but it seems to be improving for the company’s nightclubs because of Caven’s zero-tolerance management policies, he said.
Espaillat said police patrols are based on need, so evidence of illegal activity should always be reported by calling 911.
“It is imperative that businesses and individuals call and report the crimes that they see,” Espaillat said. “Those calls lead to more patrols.”
Espaillat added that he believes more loitering on Cedar Springs Road during warmer weather and during holiday periods.
Allen said he would suggest that business crime watch meetings be resumed for the merchants if they have concerns about a rise in crime. They were held for several months, then discontinued as attendance dropped, he said.
“If anybody thinks there is a need to rekindle that, we would be more than happy to sit down and discuss some of these issues,” Allen said. “I don’t want anyone to think we are ignoring the problem.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 6, 2006.