Political group seeks money from grants and other sources to fund lighting safety program for entertainment district
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats this week unveiled their new effort to make Oak Lawn safer by improving lighting in the area.
DSYD announced the “Light Up the Night” campaign during a meet on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at JR.’s Bar & Grill, explaining that the group plans to raise money to add lighting to the neighborhood bounded by Oak Lawn, Maple, Wycliff and Lemmon avenues, according to DSYD Communications Director Michael Maldonado.
The Cedar Springs area is included in one of the Dallas Police Department’s 26 Target Action Area Grids. Last year that TAAG recorded the third-most violent crimes in the city.
Reported violent crimes in the area have decreased considerably this year.
Latisha McDaniel, who lives on Hall Street in Oak Lawn, was one of those attending the meeting. She said poor lighting is a real problem for residents.
“It’s scary to walk alone because it’s so poorly lit,” McDaniel said.
Several holdups in the neighborhood were mentioned, including an incident in which two people were robbed near the Seville apartments on Reagan Street, and another in which three people were held up in front of an apartment behind the CVS Pharmacy on Lemmon Avenue.
David Richardson, who owns Skivvies and has had other stores along Cedar Springs over the past for 30 years and was among the founders of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said he has seen “huge improvements” in Oak Lawn over the years.
He said safety has always been a concern and recalled when prostitutes were a common sight along Cedar Springs Road and drug dealers and hustlers hung out on the streets behind the bars. He attended the meeting and said he is delighted with DSYD’s efforts.
“I’m glad to see another group step up to help us,” he said.
DSYD President Pennington Ingley said the group looked at studies from around the United States and Great Britain that showed that crime decreased in neighborhoods when lighting improved.
One concern was that crime would simply move from the newly-well-lit streets to other nearby streets. But Ingley said that the studies showed that improved lighting in one area has a positive effect on neighboring areas as well.
Ingley said that despite police statistics that show a decrease in crime in the area this year, he hasn’t seen any improvement in the four years he has lived on Reagan Street.
“People walk in complete darkness on Reagan Street from the Seville to Cedar Springs,” he said.
He joked that there is a solution, which is why they named the project “Light Up Oak Lawn” rather than “Stop the Muggings.”
Vice President Brian Stout said that the board walked every street in the area to map every working streetlight.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to how they’re laid out,” Stout said.
DSYD Political Director Jennifer Allen said the group also studied what lights to purchase and how to fund the project.
“We need 200 to 350 more lights to have adequate lighting in the area,” she said.
She said they recommended low-sodium LED lighting that would cost $1,000 to $1,500 per unit. Fully funding the project could cost $.5 million.
Allen said there were cheaper alternatives to getting the streets lit sooner that used bulbs. But those bulbs would burn out sooner and use more electricity.
She added that DSYD are exploring several sources of funding including economic development grants, money from foundations, neighborhood developers and government grants. Members have spoken to Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt about working with city grant writers to help obtain the money.
At the meeting, DSYD members acknowledged the city’s tight budget situation. While they expected the city to back the plan, they said did not expect the council to vote money to help pay for it.
Michael Milliken is active with the Oak Lawn Committee, which deals with zoning issues in the area. He extended an offer to work with DSYD, especially with helping them make contacts in City Hall.
DSYD Secretary Jared Pearce said that getting grants would take some time but that the group hopes the project can be completed within two years.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.
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