DPD: Don’t park at Office Depot

Officials warn club-goers after another violent attack in store’s lot

DARK AND DANGEROUS: Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn is shown from Dickason Avenue. The red sign is turned off late at night, making the parking lot darker than in this photo. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of another violent robbery in the Office Depot lot on Oak Lawn Avenue, Dallas police this week warned club-goers against parking there at night.

Officer Laura Martin, DPD’s liaison officer to the LGBT community, said the lot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave. has long been a trouble spot for crime after hours, primarily because it’s so poorly lit.

In the latest incident, three people who’d been out on the Cedar Springs strip were robbed at gunpoint and carjacked early Sunday, Oct. 23.

According to DPD records, it was at least the fourth aggravated robbery in the Office Depot lot in the last three months — in addition to numerous other offenses such as vehicle burglaries.

“That Office Depot has just been a thorn in our side for several years,” Martin said Wednesday, Oct. 26. “We would prefer that people didn’t park there. I don’t anticipate that that problem is going to go away unless we improve lighting over there significantly. I would just advise people not to park in that parking lot and not to park on that street near the parking lot.”

Martin said undercover officers have been patrolling the area, but the city is powerless to improve lighting in the parking lot itself since it’s on private property. Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who heads up DPD’s Northwest Division, has been working with city officials to improve street lighting nearby, Martin said. However, light from city fixtures on Dickason Avenue is blocked by trees lining the northeast side of the parking lot.

DPD officials recently met with Office Depot representatives, who said they have no plans to add lights in the parking lot, Martin said. She also noted that Office Depot once towed vehicles from the lot but stopped doing so in the wake of complaints from the community.

“Office Depot is not going to be doing anything differently,” Martin said. “They’re not going to tow cars and they’re not going to increase lighting. They don’t want to tow vehicles because of all the complaints they got when they did tow vehicles, and they’re not going to add lighting because they don’t have the money to add lighting.”

An assistant manager who answered the phone at Office Depot declined to comment. He referred questions to the store manager, whom he said was not available.

Jared Pearce, president of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, called on Office Depot to help address the problem. DSYD’s recent Light Up Oak Lawn safety campaign led to the city installing 45 new lights in the area, but none near Office Depot.

“Good stewards of the community can put lights up themselves,” Pearce said. “Office Depot could do it for a lot cheaper than the city could.”

One of the victims in last week’s robbery said he doesn’t normally park at Office Depot — but did so that night because a friend was driving his car. The 21-year-old and his two friends, all from Tyler, had returned to his vehicle from Station 4 at about 3 a.m. Sunday.

The victim was sitting in the passenger seat, and his two friends were talking in the parking lot. The two suspects, described as black males wearing hooded sweatshirts, pulled up behind them in a white Dodge Avenger. The suspects got out, pointed handguns at his friends and said, “Get on the ground, give me your money.” One of the suspects then got into the victim’s 2010 Toyota and said, “Get out of the car or I’ll blow your head off.”

After the victim got out, the suspect drove off in the victim’s Toyota, while the second suspect drove off in the Dodge.
Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, said police later recovered the stolen vehicle with no wheels or tires at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of North St. Augustine Road.

“Detectives are still waiting for physical evidence collected in the recovered vehicle to be analyzed and returned,” Janse said Wednesday.

The victim, meanwhile, was trying to figure out how to get the badly damaged vehicle back to East Texas, where he’s a college student. He said the car, valued at $36,000, was mostly paid for, but his insurance had lapsed two days before the robbery.

“They won’t cover it,” he said. “I’m just out of luck.

“I’m a student so I pretty much live in my car, and I had everything in my trunk,” he added. “Literally, they took my underwear.”

The victim said he normally tries to park directly behind the Cedar Springs nightclubs because his car had previously been burglarized in Oak Lawn. And he echoed Martin’s advisory about the Office Depot lot.

“Even though it might be hard to get a parking spot, keep trying somewhere closer and somewhere where it’s light,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

DPD’s gay liaison moves to Northwest Division, where she can keep a close eye on Oak Lawn

Laura Martin

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer, recently transferred from Jack Evans Police Headquarters to the department’s Northwest Division.

“I’m still citywide, even though I’m stationed at Northwest,” Martin said. “I still do the same thing. It’s just I have a different desk.”

Martin said she was assigned to the Northwest Division because it includes Oak Lawn and the city’s largest gay entertinament district — the Cedar Springs strip.

“That was their reasoning for sending me here, so I could be close to the Oak Lawn area and find out more about what’s going on in Oak Lawn by talking to patrol officers,” Martin said. “I feel like nothing will get lost, so to speak.”

In addition to DPD headquarters, Martin has done stints in the Central Business District, the Northeast Division, and the Central Division.

Last year, Martin’s LGBT liaison duties became full time in response to a request from City Councilwoman Delia Jasso.

Martin’s new desk phone is 214-671-0130. She can still be reached via email at police@rcdallas.org.

—  John Wright

Police blotter: Hit-and-run on Cedar Springs

Valentine’s Day got off to a bad start when a motorist intentionally struck two pedestrians near Havana Bar & Grill on Cedar Springs Road early Monday, according to police reports.

Reports say the suspect and the victim, a 39-year-old black male, got into an argument that became a physical fight at about 2 a.m. at 4008 Cedar Springs Road. After a security guard stepped in to break up the fight, the suspect got in a vehicle and intentionally accelerated toward the victim. The suspect’s vehicle struck the victim as well as a witness, before the suspect fled northbound on Cedar Springs Road. The two injured people were taken to Parkland hospital.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday that police hadn’t made any arrests.

“Victim is claiming he doesn’t remember what happened,” Janse said. “No one knows the suspect and there are conflicting stories about what really took place. Detectives will continue to try to get to the bottom of what really happened. It is unknown the condition of the victim at this time.”

The suspect’s vehicle is described as a cream-colored, four-door Nissan. Anyone with information can call the Crimes Against Persons Division at 214- 671-3584.

—  John Wright

Dallas police ‘ready to roll’ for gay Pride

DPD Deputy Chief Malik Aziz

Despite a recent rash of violent robberies involving gay bar patrons in Oak Lawn, a Dallas police official indicated Wednesday that people shouldn’t be at all reluctant to visit the area during the upcoming gay Pride weekend.

“We’re ready to roll,” said Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who’s over DPD’s Northwest Division, which includes the Cedar Springs strip. “We’re going to make sure the area’s safe.”

Aziz made the comments following the monthly meeting of the Oak Lawn Apartment Managers and Stakeholders Crime Watch group, at the Oak Lawn Library.

During the meeting, Crime Watch members criticized DPD officials for failing to promptly notify them about last week’s aggravated robbery on Dickason Avenue, just a block from the Cedar Springs strip.

Nancy Weinberger, the leader of the Crime Watch group, said she didn’t learn about the Friday night incident until Tuesday.

“My issue is we’re not getting the information about assaults and armed robberies that happen in this neighborhood,” Weinberger told police officials during the meeting. “If somebody gets armed robbed or attacked in the neighborhood, I want to know about it.”

Aziz responded that there needs to be a “50-50 partnership” between police and citizens, meaning those who want information need to sign up for e-mails from DailyCrimeReport.com or search the department’s public website at DallasPolice.net. He said police officials can’t always send out alerts about every violent offense right away, partly because they don’t have the technological infrastructure to do so.

“I’ve got 50 percent, I’m going to work on that,” Aziz told the group. “The other 50 percent is you.”

Aziz said after the meeting that police have no leads in Friday’s robbery, which occurred in the same block where Jimmy Lee Dean was brutally attacked two years ago. Aziz said he’s “perplexed” by the incident and frustrated that despite an overall drop in violent crime in the area this year, police continue to battle the perception that it’s unsafe around the bars.

“I think we need more eyes and ears and more engagement in this neighborhood,” he said. “Unfortunately we can’t be in every place at once.”

Aziz said one way for people to get involved is to sign up for the Volunteers In Patrol program. They can do so by calling 214-670-6561.

—  John Wright

Violent crime drops 11% in Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG

Police report 11 percent decrease in violent crime in Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG in first 6 months of 2010

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall

Despite a recent high-profile hate crime in Oak Lawn, the area surrounding the Cedar Springs strip has gotten safer over the last six months, according to statistics from the Dallas Police Department.

In 2009, a roughly 1-square-mile area that includes the gay entertainment district recorded the fourth-most violent offenses of any of the city’s 26 worst crime hotspots.

But during the first six months of 2010, the area known as the Cedar Springs Wycliff Target Area Action Grid (TAAG) saw an 11 percent drop in violent crime, the statistics show.

From January through June of this year, the Cedar Springs Wycliff  TAAG recorded 95 violent offenses, down from 107 in the same period last year.

While DPD officials have cautioned against ranking the areas, 2010 numbers put the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG at No. 7 on the citywide list for violent crime.

DPD Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who’s over the department’s Northwest Division, said according to more recent statistics, through July 11, violent crime is down 15 percent in the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG.

“We’ve been pouring a lot of resources into different areas,” Aziz said Thursday, July 15. “We’ve still got issues we’ve got to deal with, but crime is on the decrease. The payoff is as great as the community engagement with police.”

Overall, the 26 TAAGs have seen a 6 percent reduction in violent crime in the first half of this year.

In the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG, individual robberies have seen the biggest drop, going from 69 in the first six months of 2009 to 55 this year. The other categories of violent crime — aggravated assault, murder, rape and business robberies — have stayed roughly the same.

Aziz said there’s also been a substantial decrease in nonviolent offenses — including property crimes such as burglary and theft — in the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG.

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said he’s noticed a difference.

“It’s definitely an improvement,” Whittall said. “I think as business owners on the street, we feel it. It’s definitely reduced, so those numbers don’t shock me.”

Whittall and others have criticized the TAAG statistics in the past, saying they’re not an accurate reflection of the gay entertainment district.

While it includes the strip, the Cedar Springs Wycliff TAAG stretches to Parkland Hospital and beyond Stemmons Freeway in some places.

“I have a feeling that in our little area, that it’s a higher drop,” Whittall said.

He added that he’s noticed an increased police presence, including an unmanned cruiser parked in the Kroger parking lot.

“That type of little extra effort is very welcome,” he said.

Whittall, co-owner of Buli Café, said the business received a visit recently from DPD officers conducting a survey about crime issues in the area.

During a June meeting with LGBT stakeholders, new Police Chief David Brown promised a return to community-oriented policing.

“We’re just trying to drill down to be more pointed and more focused on specific things we need to target,” Aziz said of the survey.

………………………………..

Top 10 Crime Hotspots in Dallas in 2010

Area:    No. offenses
Five Points:    153
Northwest Hwy/Harry Hines:    114
Ross/Bennett:    108
Hatcher/2nd:    102
Forest/Audelia:    97
Jim Miller Loop 12:    96
Cedar Springs/Wycliff:    95
Buckner/Peavy:    92
Jefferson Corridor:    91
Buckner/Bruton:    87
Source: Dallas Police Department

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas