Action Plan from Monday Night’s Downtown Community Public Safety Meeting

To the Downtown Dallas community:

Late Wednesday, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) announced the first in what we expect will be many arrests related to the K2 issue that has caused tremendous impact on our Downtown neighborhoods. Yesterday morning, video of the suspect in the Hoff carjacking case was released. And just this morning, another K2-related arrest was made. We applaud DPD for their responsiveness to these issues and urge continued aggressive pursuit to send a message that Downtown will not tolerate this type of threat to our community.

It was that same message of “no tolerance” that was heard Monday night as we came together to discuss collective action toward addressing public safety. I thank everyone who attended to provide valuable feedback, which our team at Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) has assembled and will continue to work with you to effect positive change. I also would like to thank Council Members Philip Kingston, District 14, and Adam Medrano, District 2, for their participation and ongoing diligence with public safety issues.

Residential growth is the key to Downtown’s future. Just 20 years ago, there were 200 people living Downtown. Now, there are over 9,000 residents living in the core and over 45,000 living within 2.5 miles. Downtown residents are the talent pool corporations are chasing. Residents are birthing new businesses and giving life to our streets. We must protect this growth by first and foremost protecting the safety of our citizens. As such, DDI’s number one priority is always public safety, recognizing that without meeting that basic human need, everything else we are working toward is for naught.

Our goal Monday night was primarily to open lines of communication as a starting point for future collaborative action. We also wanted to share some information that is often unknown to ensure the community is fully aware of the resources available. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate some of that information, followed by a summary of priorities from Monday’s meeting.

DDI’s role in public safety is threefold:

We are an advocate. In partnership with the community, we leverage our relationships and expertise to make recommendations, create programs, and influence agencies that have the capacity, policy, and regulatory control and enforcement power to directly address public safety issues. This includes our partners such as the DPD, City of Dallas, DART, the County, and the State. We make it a priority to effect change, work collaboratively, and hold these organizations accountable for actions that are in the best interest of the entire Downtown community. In this capacity, we have directly influenced:

  • DPD’s creation of First Watch shift, which added a dedicated patrol of 25 officers to the Central Business District overnight between the hours of 11:00 p.m. – 8:00 a.m. (2015)
  • State legislative changes elevating Burglary of Motor Vehicle offenses from a misdemeanor to a felony. (2009)
  • Amendments to local law to create a no tolerance policy on panhandling in Downtown, making it illegal to panhandle in specified zones, including the Central Business District, Deep Ellum, Victory Park, and Uptown. (2011)
  • Agreements with all Downtown liquor and convenience stores to not sell high-alcohol content single beer and wine. The Downtown Safety Patrol conducts bi-weekly audits at each location to ensure stores are adhering to the agreement. (2010)
  • Creation and ongoing operation of the Impact Offender initiative with the District Attorney, DPD, County Jail, and judges to ensure career criminals are held on bond, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that plea bargains are not an option. (2010)

We are a facilitator and a vehicle for communication. We work in tandem with neighborhood groups such as the Downtown Residents Council, Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association, CBD Neighborhood Coalition, and others in adjacent neighborhoods to not only communicate our own initiatives, but also promote cooperation. Because of our diverse membership and partnerships with other like-minded organizations, we are able to connect conversations between residents, the business community, and agencies like DART, City of Dallas, and the County. The Downtown community is no longer segmented – all of these interests come together to advance our neighborhoods.

If you are not already plugged in, here are some ways to get involved:

  • DDI directly manages communications to Dallas Emergency Response Team (DERT) members including notifications of emergencies, street closures, DART issues, special events, critical incidents, and weather alerts. DERT members are primarily property managers and security directors for each Downtown residential and commercial building.
  • DDI and our Downtown Safety Patrol work directly with businesses, corporations, hotels, and merchants to provide escorts for their employees and patrons upon request, offer safety tips, and conduct safety audits and seminars.
  • DDI has multiple information resources for residents, businesses, and those generally interested in Downtown. We produce communications ranging from “things to do” to the latest development news, as well as the latest information on critical issues facing our community. Follow us on social media, and you can also sign up according to your interests for newsletters and communications on our web site.

We proactively work every day to maintain a safe neighborhood Downtown. DDI’s number one priority is public safety. From creating the Downtown Safety Patrol (DSP) more than ten years ago to our programs related to lighting and vagrancy, over two-thirds of our budget is allocated to public safety and maintenance initiatives.

  • The DSP is on patrol and available Sunday – Thursday 6:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. and Friday/Saturday 6:30 a.m. – midnight. The DSP dispatch number is 214.741.1151. Officers are available for escorts and to supplement the DPD.
  • DDI employs an off-duty DPD officer during DSP hours of operation.
  • We fund the Homeward Bound program, which reunites homeless individuals with their families. Since its inception in 2008, over 2,000 individuals have been reunited with family.
  • Each year, DDI fulfills equipment requests from DPD including bicycles, bait car equipment, and additional technology to enhance officer’s ability to be effective Downtown.
  • DDI established an ongoing task force comprised of DPD, DART Police, El Centro, Greyhound, and DSP that addresses current issues like the most recent K2 epidemic to ensure a multi-pronged approach to our most critical threats.
  • DDI created the “Lights Out” initiative, whereby our DSP checks 1,500 lights Downtown every two weeks. Lights found to be “out” are reported to Oncor and the City of Dallas, with an agreed repair time of no more than three business days.
  • DSP, Clean Team, and Crisis Intervention partner weekly to clear and clean up encampments within the Downtown Improvement District. They engage homeless and direct them to appropriate services.

Because of our position and history as a steward for the Downtown community, Monday night’s meeting was critical. It is the type of communication shared that evening that shapes our programs and directs our partnerships with other agencies. In our role as a facilitator, it was our intent to first open a direct line of communication between residents and the DPD. As was discussed at the meeting, we will hold several more sessions, collectively assembling a transparent and specific action plan. As an advocate, we will take that plan and, along with the community, hold all parties involved accountable. Finally, as an active participant in public safety efforts, we are identifying additional initiatives that we can directly undertake that are within the mission and capacity of this organization to act immediately.

With regard to specific takeaways from Monday night, we have assembled a list of what we heard as priorities. Again, I want to make the point that the intent is to move forward collaboratively, and that DDI is serving as a facilitator to plan with the community. Additional work will be done quickly to assemble short term and long term solutions into a community action plan. It is also worth noting that Downtown Dallas, Inc. empowers and encourages its entire executive staff to collaborate and make decisions and recommendations on our behalf, as was done Monday night. Most do, or have, lived Downtown, and care deeply about these revitalization efforts and have specific expertise to address many of these issues.

From Monday night’s meeting, we’ve initially identified the following priority actions:

  1. Residential Property Safety Audits: DDI will reach out to residential property managers over the next 45 days to offer coordination assistance to conduct DPD-led safety audits of their buildings, including parking garages. This will include an emergency access plan for police and fire and recommendations from DPD to improve personal safety of residents.
  1. Residential Property Code Amendments: Public policy leaders will explore the possibility of amending building code for multi-family properties to raise standards for lighting, security and access.
  2. Ongoing Community Collaboration: DDI will coordinate quarterly meetings (more often as needed) to serve as a forum for public safety collaboration. Additional invitees to add to the base of residents at the first meeting will include: DART; The Bridge; Oncor property owners, managers, and security directors; merchant businesses; and other concerned employers. The next meeting will be held on February 15 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at Alto 211, 8th Floor. The agenda will include an update on progress on this initial action list, as well as a refinement of the community action plan.
  1. DART and DPD Communication: Several concerns over the communication between DART and DPD were expressed, including statistical reporting and call response. DDI has convened a meeting with DART and DPD the first week in February to facilitate identifying and solving these issues.
  1. Neighborhood Crime Watch: DDI will host a series of workshops beginning in the next 30 days led by the DPD to offer Downtown-area neighborhood groups, building associations, and the overall community the opportunity to develop and establish a neighborhood crime watch program, building off of the success of the established Farmers Market Crime Watch.
  1. Lighting and Sidewalks: Though significant progress has been made to improve lighting and walkability, dark spots and broken sidewalks still exist in Downtown. Short term, DDI will work with residents to identify “quick win” projects that can be implemented quickly with available resources. DDI will also engage Oncor in the conversation. Longer term, the Downtown Dallas 360 plan is addressing many of these infrastructure issues to assist in setting priorities for future bond funds. DDI has engaged an engineering firm to assess all sidewalks in the CBD. This information will be used to prioritize sidewalk repairs as funding becomes available.
  1. Merchant Safety Seminars: Over the next 30 days, DPD has offered to visit with Downtown merchant businesses to provide safety tips for employees as well as security audits of their establishments. Contact us if you have interest in this program and we will connect you with DPD coordinators.
  2. No Panhandling Campaign: DDI will reinvigorate its panhandling awareness campaign that is aimed at educating the public as to better ways to give, as well as the no panhandling law. Businesses may request the DDI No Panhandling posters by emailing info@downtowndallas.com.
  1. Lasting Solutions to Address Panhandling, Vagrancy, and Homelessness: These are three distinct issues that require a comprehensive approach including regulation, enforcement, and social services. DDI encourages public policy leaders, related agencies, social service providers, and the community to refocus on solution-based planning that looks at the entire city as a whole.

Again, please mark your calendar for the next Downtown Public Safety Forum to participate in the further development of this community action plan. Several of these items are already progressing, and updates will be provided in the interim as well.

I hope to see you on Monday, February 15th, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at Alto 211, 8th floor.

Thank you,

John F. Crawford, President & CEO and the entire Downtown Dallas, Inc. team

 

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About Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. is the primary advocate, champion, and steward for Downtown, effecting change by developing strategies, setting targets, and mobilizing resources that:

  • Stimulate a vibrant and sustainable Downtown environment
  • Improve infrastructure
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Create a culturally inclusive urban center
  • Position the area as a global destination

Our program areas include: public safety; capital improvements; maintenance; economic development; public policy; planning/transportation; and marketing. For more information, visit www.downtowndallas.com

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