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

Get enlightened — or just lit up — with Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats at Dish tonight

Last month David Taffet reported on Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ “Light Up Oak Lawn” initiative, aimed at making the gayborhood safer by improving street lighting. Since then, of course, there’s been yet another violent attack against a gay bar patron in the area, and we’ll have an update on shooting victim Doug Tull’s condition in Friday’s Voice.

But first, on Thursday night, DSYD members will get an update on the lighting project, in addition to discussing the upcoming Red Party and the group’s Get Out The Vote efforts, according to a message from Vice President Brian Stout.

“Or just come for the cocktails,” Stout said.

The group’s monthly meeting is from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Dish, 4123 Cedar Springs Road.

—  John Wright

New group forming for hate crime survivors

O’Connor, Mullinex both fell victim to hate crimes, and now they want to use their experiences to help others

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Maeve O’Connor, left, and Winter Mullinex

Options for victims of hate crimes are limited. But two transgender women who survived life-threatening attacks have the group formed Surviving Hate to try and offer more options for hate-crime survivors who are trying to put their lives back together.
To raise money to launch their group, Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna will screen his film, “Ticked-Off Tr*nnies With Knives,” on July 7 at Studio Movie Grill in North Dallas.

Surviving Hate organizer Maeve O’Connor said there are advocacy groups for hate crime victims, but survivor groups outside of a clinical setting are rare. She said she realized the need for such a group during discussions with Winter
Mullinex, who also lived through a violent attack.

“We realized we were able to empathize with each other about what we went through,” O’Connor said.

The new group is still in the development stage. Their goal, she said, was to empower survivors to live healthy lives. A website where survivors will be able to share their experiences, anonymously if they prefer, should be running next week. O’Connor said they are still creating their board of directors and then will apply for non-profit status.

O’Connor said she hopes this spawns a network of survivor groups across the country.

Surviving Hate will reach beyond the transgender community to help victims of any bias-related violence — whether it was motivated by race, religion, ethnicity or physical disability, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The most recent FBI statistics are for 2008, a year before the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime law was enacted. Of the 7,780 bias incidents reported for that year, 16.7 percent were based on sexual orientation.

O’Connor believes that some crimes based on gender identity are included in that number, but most have gone unreported. Statistics compiled for the year 2010 — that will not be available until 2012 — will include gender identity and expression as specified in the new law.

Both O’Connor and Mullinex spoke about the crimes that affected their lives. Both were raped, beaten and left for dead. O’Connor said her rapists told her, “You look like a girl. You act like a girl. We’re going to help make you a girl.”

The attack happened 31 years ago when she was 16.

The first reaction is fear, she said, and like many hate crime victims, she did not report the crime. Next, she said, comes shame.

But she said at that age she did not understand gender identity and was not out, she believed the attack happened because of who she really was.

Winter, a survivor of multiple hate crime attacks, was first raped at age 9. She said she understood at the time she was transgender.

Both women said the purpose of their new group is not to wallow in pity. Survivors often think their reactions are unusual, but together victims discover their reactions are quite similar and normal.

The women said the victims are often blamed for bringing on the attack. But the purpose of Surviving Hate is not self-pity or assigning blame.

“How do you thrive?” O’Connor said. “How do you go on with your life? I’ve become successful. I’d like others to do that.”

“I can tell you, 31 years later, you don’t get over it,” she said. “But you do learn to deal with it and put it to the side.”

“When you’re in a victim mindset, you feel powerless,” Mullenix said. “No one lives unscarred, but survivors are empowered and capable of leading a normal life.”

She would like to help hate crime victims move past the fear.

Their goal for survivors seems simple but is something that took both women years to achieve.

“Learn to have healthy, happy relationships and trust again,” Winter said. •

“Ticked Off Tr*nnies with Knives” at Studio Movie Grill, 11170 North Central Expressway. July 7 at 8 p.m. $10. SurvivingHate.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas