Violent crime falls 13% in Oak Lawn hotspot

But jumps in vehicle burglaries, auto thefts fuel overall increase in 2011 for Maple-Wycliff TAAG

Martin.Laura

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com
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.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Which part of Lock Take Hide don’t gays get?

Lt. Paul Stokes tells Instant Tea there’s been a significant increase in motor-vehicle burglaries near the Cedar Springs entertainment district in recent weeks, so DPD deployed a bait vehicle to 3200 Throckmorton with a laptop computer and a GPS unit in plain view.

And the sting operation worked. On Sunday afternoon, a suspect opened the unlocked vehicle, which was parked on the street, and removed the items. The 42-year-old white male was arrested a few blocks away at 3200 Wycliff by officers who observed the theft.

“This is proactive policing to address BMVs in the area,” Stokes said Monday. “We’ve had an uptick and it’s caught our eye, so we have our surveillance out. We wanted to get on it before it was a huge problem.

“If people would lock, take and hide, we wouldn’t have to do this,” he added.

—  John Wright