But jumps in vehicle burglaries, auto thefts fuel overall increase in 2011 for Maple-Wycliff TAAG
JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
Violent crime fell roughly 13 percent last year in the 1-square-mile hotspot that encompasses the Cedar Springs entertainment district and most of the Oak Lawn gayborhood, according to statistics provided by the Dallas Police Department this week.
However, the number of nonviolent offenses jumped 7 percent in the area —including significant spikes in vehicle burglaries and auto thefts — leading to a 4 percent increase in overall crime.
The Maple-Wycliff Target Area Action Grid, previously known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, stretches generally from Maple Avenue to Lemmon Avenue, and from Oak Lawn Avenue to Kings Road.
The area, identified by DPD as one of 27 crime hotspots citywide, recorded 108 violent offenses from Jan. 1 through Dec. 26 of 2011, down from 122 violent offenses during the same period in 2010. Statistics for the final five days of the year were not yet available this week.
The 2011 numbers put the Maple-Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 for violent crime on a list of the city’s worst hotspots. Three years ago, shortly after the hotspots were identified, the Maple-Wycliff TAAG climbed as high as No. 2 on the list.
“I think part of it is the general trend in Dallas and nationally, that crime has gone down,” said Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes portions of the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. “I think the other part of it is the additional focus the city has placed on making safety a greater priority in that area.”
Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for DPD, cited increased patrols, including plainclothes officers, as well as greater community involvement.
“The reason we have TAAG areas is they’re identified as high crime areas, so we address them with extra patrols,” Martin said. “Those areas where we have high crime get more attention, so it would stand to reason that crime would be reduced in those areas.”
Both Hunt and Martin also pointed to improved street lighting in the gayborhood, much of which was initiated by Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn campaign.
Martin said even the Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. — where the parking lot has long been plagued by aggravated robberies — recently installed additional lighting.
“If you go over there on the weekend now it looks like Christmas,” Martin said. “I don’t believe we’ve had a problem since then at that location.”
The 12.5 percent decrease in violent crime in the Maple-Wycliff TAAG was part of an 8.8 percent reduction citywide — which marked the eighth straight annual decline, a record for Dallas.
The Dallas Morning News reported this week that murders dropped to a 44-year low in 2011, while total crime was down 39 percent over the last eight years.
Factors cited as contributing to the trend include the hiring of hundreds more police officers over the last few years, DPD’s strategy of hotspot policing and the large number of convicts who are behind bars.
However, despite increased attention from police, the news was not all good for the Maple-Wycliff TAAG. Statistics obtained by Dallas Voice show vehicle burglaries jumped 21 percent from 2010 to 2011, while auto thefts jumped 17 percent.
The Maple-Wycliff TAAG recorded 338 vehicle burglaries in 2011 — or an average of almost one per day — up from 280 in 2010.
Martin noted that the number of vehicle burglaries dropped sharply over the last month of 2011. She said this was after DPD made several arrests of burglars who had been very active in the area.
Martin advised people to park in well-lit, nonisolated areas, away from shadows and tree cover, and to lock their vehicles and set their alarms if they have them.
She also said people should take anything from their vehicles they can’t afford to lose, and hide everything else under a seat, or in the glove compartment or trunk.
But she warned people against hiding items after they’ve already parked, because she said criminals look for this.
“You don’t want people to observe you hiding things,” she said. “Make your vehicle a hard target. Burglary of a vehicle a lot of times is a crime of opportunity.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.