Merchants association would like to cut down on panhandling and vagrants along the retail side of Cedar Springs
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Cedar Springs Merchants Association decided to hire a guard to patrol the east side of Cedar Springs Road. Store owners and landlords will fund the additional security.
Caven Enterprises, owner of four bars on the west side Cedar Springs, has had guards patrol that side of the street for years.
CSMA President Scott Whittall said several incidents prompted hiring the guard.
“We deal with panhandlers and vagrants daily,” Whittall said.
A burglary at OutLines several weeks ago was among the incidents that prompted the move.
OutLines manager David Lester said, “A gentleman of dubious character was in the store.”
He said the salesman kept an eye on him. The man said he was going to purchase six pairs of jeans, selected a variety of sizes and styles and took them to the counter. The salesman followed the man to the cash register but as he walked behind the counter, the man grabbed the slacks and ran out the door.
Lester said the presence of security on the street would help.
“The security person will have a phone,” he said.
A salesman in a store could call the guard to come down to that store. Lester said it might not have prevented the theft, but the man would have been less likely to grab and run if a guard was standing outside the front door.
“The presence tends to tell people we’re watching,” he said.
He said at night during the week the parking in back can be dark and lonely. A security guard could watch people as they go to their cars.
However, the guard will not be full time. The days and hours will vary from week to week.
Lester said that it would be nice to have someone full-time but this is what they can afford. He said the fluctuating schedule would make it harder to announce which hours would be best for shoplifting. Some days the guard will patrol during the afternoon. Other days security will continue into the evening.
Caven Enterprises has employed security guards around its clubs and parking lots for years.
“We’ve had security as long as I’ve worked for this company,” said Caven president Gregg Kilhoffer, who has been with the company for 27 years.
On any one night Caven has three to seven guards — one at each club entrance, one in the parking lot, one in paid parking and one or two roaming the perimeter.
“Security is very important,” Kilhoffer said, “And I’m very proud of that.”
Kilhoffer, who is on the board of the merchant’s association, said he would like to see security during the day for the stores and restaurants.
“That would help us deal with people who harass customers,” he said.
Whittall said that CSMA is still interviewing companies to provide the protection required. He said he thought they had a deal with one company but that company wasn’t willing to patrol on a varying schedule.
“Vagrants know when security is there,” Whittall said.
Police advised the group to vary hours and days to keep panhandlers and vagrants off-guard.
Whittall said that in his eight years as a Cedar Springs merchant, he hadn’t encountered any violent crime along the street. And a security guard would not patrol the residential streets where many people park on weekends where muggings have occurred.
Lester said that unfortunately a guard wouldn’t have prevented the recent hit-and-run accidents involving pedestrians either.
But Whittall said panhandling is a major problem that merchants hoped to get under control.
“Not a day went by that I didn’t have to deal with it,” Whittall said.
Whittall sold Buli and the transfer to new owners happened last week. He said the new owners had to deal with a panhandler in the store the first hour they were running the business.
To fund the guard, CSMA planned to hold a holiday dinner and cabaret on Friday, Dec. 2 at The Rose Room. Whittall said that several other events that evening conflicted including a Human Rights Campaign holiday party. Only half the seats sold so CSMA decided to postpone it.
Whittall said the event will be moved to early spring. Singer Linda Petty who was slated to appear, told him that she would be available for the group whenever they rescheduled it. She said she’d rather sing for a full house to help them raise more money.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.