Youth gangs worry Oak Lawn community activist

Posted on 20 Jul 2006 at 8:47pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

Police supervisor pledges officers’ support in helping stakeholders, complex managers address crime issues



Nancy Weinberger

A Dallas Police Department supervisor this week pledged his division’s support in helping members of the Oak Lawn Apartment Managers and Stakeholders Crime Watch group clean up crime in the neighborhood.

Deputy Chief B. E. Harvey of the Central Division made the pledge after community activist Nancy Weinberger outlined her concerns at a meeting between the group’s members and five police officers.

Weinberger said the area bounded by Cedar Springs, Throckmorton, Hall and Knight streets is overrun by drug dealers, hustlers, panhandlers and gangs of youths hanging out and drinking in business parking lots.

Weinberger said similar problems have always existed in Oak Lawn, but it has become much worse during the past year. She has lived in the area for 30 years.

“I’ve seen anything and everything and nothing surprises me, but I’m sick and tired of what I’m seeing now,” Weinberger said.

Weinberger said she has witnessed people urinating, having sex and making drug deals in public for years. The most recent unsavory development is the gathering of young people in business parking lots at night and on weekends.

“They are much too young to be visiting bars and businesses in this neighborhood,” Weinberger said. “They’re kids.

Donald Solomon, a representative of Caven Enterprises, said the young people are also a concern to the entertainment company’s officials, who manage four nightclubs in the area.

“They’re kids,” Solomon said. “They shouldn’t be down here.”

Weinberger blamed several business and property owners for the problem, saying they have an obligation to make sure illegal activity is not occurring on their property. Police officers are unable to control activity on private property unless the owner makes a complaint.

“My major complaint is that the property owners are not living up to their responsibility to us,” Weinberger said. “These people are not taking care of their property, and it is impacting the quality of our lives.”

Weinberger identified four businesses where the illegal activity is occurring without interference from the property owners. All of the business and property owners in the area were invited to the meeting, but only one of the owners of a problem area sent a representative to the meeting.

“Everybody has got to cooperate, or we’re not going to get anywhere,” Weinberger said. “It’s going to take all of us together to get something done.”

Weinberger said she is concerned that “something bad will happen” if the illegal activity is allowed to continue.

“I don’t want that to happen,” Weinberger said. “I have too many friends, neighbors and family members here, and I don’t want it to be one of them.”

Harvey said his officers would work with the group’s members to curb the illegal activity. Representatives of the police department will work with the group’s members to help encourage property owners to cooperate, he said.
“It is a solvable problem,” Harvey said. “We’re going to put together a plan.”

Harvey said the challenge would be for the group and police officers to develop a holistic approach to effectively put an end to the crime.

“It all starts with communication,” Harvey said.

Sgt. E. Spila, a police supervisor in the Oak Lawn area, attributed the congregation of young people in the Oak Lawn entertainment district to Reverchon Park closing at 8 p.m. Many young people hang out in the park until closing, he said.

Spila said if property owners will call and complain about their parking lots being used for gathering places, he would take action. Until a complaint is received, he said he couldn’t legally arrest anyone for trespassing or anything else.

“I’ll be more than happy to bring the paddy wagon and start loading them up, but I’ve got to have the cooperation of the business owners,” Spila said.

Prior to the meeting with the police officers, the group heard a presentation from City Manager Mary Suhm about the city’s budget and the 2006 capital bond program. Suhm said reducing crime is a major objective when city officials are discussing budget provisions.

The plans call for hiring new officers and for adding programs in libraries and other facilities to “help keep kids out of trouble.” Crime reduction also requires a good economy and stable neighborhoods, she said.

“We can add police officers until the cows come home but we won’t see a reduction in crime if we don’t address other issues in the community,” Suhm said.

Suhm noted crime routinely increases in the summer because students are out of school.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 21, 2006.

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