Officials warn club-goers after another violent attack in store’s lot
JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
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.