Downtown Public Safety Community Action Plan – Status Update July 2017

Downtown Dallas, Inc. continues to support public safety and Quality of Life Initiatives Downtown. The Community Action Plan is updated on a quarterly basis summarizing the top priorities from residents, businesses owners, and additional stakeholders. As continued follow-up, please find status updates related to the Community Action Plan below.  Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, concerns, or additional contributions.

  1. Residential Property Safety Audits: Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) visits residential property managers 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.

STATUS: COMPLETE – DDI visited every residential property in the CBD in 2016 and successfully facilitated completion of the safety audits for 24 residential properties. Residential safety audits will be completed on an annual basis going forward. Updates and crime watch meetings are scheduled with residential property managers throughout the year.

  1. Ongoing Community Collaboration: DDI coordinates monthly meetings with law enforcement and homeless outreach services to collaborate on quality of life issues. Attendees include: DPD, DART, DISD, El Centro, The Bridge, Oncor, property owners, managers, security directors, merchant businesses, and other concerned employers.

STATUS: DDI facilitates 200 safety and crime watch meetings with Downtown stakeholders. The Safety Patrol attends monthly meetings with CBD Crime Watch, Downtown Residents Council (DRC), Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association (DDNA), Downtown Security Directors Association (DSDA), West End Association, and the Farmers Market Stakeholders meeting. DDI/Downtown Safety Patrol (DSP) has a standing offer to attend and present at any and all resident, neighborhood association, and HOA meetings.

Councilmember Adam Medrano holds a monthly Crime Watch meeting held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. DDI actively helps promote the monthly Crime Watch meetings to residents and stakeholders.

West End Crime Task Force – DDI hosts monthly Task Force Meetings including 5 Downtown law enforcement agencies; DPD, DART Police, El Centro Police, DISD Police, DSP, and DPD Crisis Intervention Team. The group coordinates multiple initiatives to address crime and quality of life issues including panhandling sweeps, undercover narcotics operation, truancy round ups, and targeted patrols. West End crime was down 24% in 2016 (a record), and 11% YTD.

DART Police monitor 3,900 cameras on buses, trains, and at DART Rail Stations. Additional cameras are being installed at the West End Transfer Station and Rosa Parks Plaza by December. Five DART Police Officers are on duty at West End Station and Rosa Parks Plaza 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. West End Station physical upgrade includes high-intensity lighting, barriers, and jumbo video screen featuring CCTV video monitoring station.

  1. DART and DPD Communication: Several concerns over the communication between DART and DPD were expressed, including statistical reporting and call response.

STATUS: A monthly task force meeting has been established that includes DPD, DART Police, DISD Police, El Centro Police, and DSP to facilitate a coordinated effort to address public safety issues Downtown including: K2 use and K2 dealers, aggressive panhandling, and other Quality of Life Ordinance violations.

Other ongoing initiatives include:

  • Top 10 Panhandler initiative
  • Quality of Life Task Force
  • Impact Offender initiative

Additionally, a partnership has been implemented between the DPD, County Jail, District Attorney, and Criminal Courts to: identify, hold on high bond, prosecute, and issue maximum sentences to remove career criminals from Downtown. In the past, low bonds and plea bargains put career criminals back Downtown within 24 hours. The impact offender list ensures career criminals are held on high bond and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (no plea bargains).

  1. Neighborhood Crime Watch: DDI hosts a series of workshops 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.

STATUS: Again, we are grateful to Councilmember Medrano for his leadership to establish the monthly CBD Neighborhood 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 swiftly with available resources. DDI will also engage Oncor in the conversation. Longer term, The 360 Plan is addressing many of these infrastructure issues to assist in setting priorities for future bond funds.

STATUS:

  • DSP officers check all Downtown street lights twice per month to note and report any light outages to private owners, Oncor, and City of Dallas. Most outages are fixed within 36 hours.
  • DDI has funded an engineering firm to evaluate and map sidewalk conditions for every sidewalk and crosswalk in the CBD. This report should be complete in Q3.
  • DDI will have initial design concepts for 8-10 new quick win projects to present for feedback by fall.
  • DDI has funded the design and has designated funds to complete the sidewalk on Main Street to connect Main Street District and Deep Ellum. DDI is also exploring ways to partner with Deep Ellum Foundation to incorporate additional lighting under 345. We are awaiting the approvals and/or additional information from TxDOT and City of Dallas on both projects.
  1. Merchant Safety Seminars: DPD and DSP to visit with Downtown merchant businesses to provide safety tips for employees, as well as security audits of their establishments.

STATUS: DPD and DSP regularly check in with businesses to offer safety audits and meetings. DSP and DPD have reached out to businesses in the CBD offering to conduct safety audits and meetings. Contact us if you have interest in this program and we will connect you with DPD Neighborhood Patrol Officer.

  1. Reinvigorate 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.

STATUS: DDI has distributed over 250 ‘No Panhandling’ posters to businesses and residents since January 2016.  The more permanent orange and white no panhandling signs can be ordered directly from Fast Signs (for a nominal fee). Remember to call 911 on panhandlers, especially if aggressive. You can also call DSP at 214.741.1151 who can assist by calling our off-duty officer for assistance in removing/arresting the panhandler. DPD has made 171 panhandling arrests YTD.

  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, understanding the impact of concentration in Downtown.

STATUS: DPD has added two full-time Crisis Intervention case workers dedicated to the Downtown area. DSP and DPD Crisis Intervention Team visit small homeless encampments around the perimeter of Downtown on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Homeless individuals are identified and offered transportation to shelters for services. Bus tickets home are offered to homeless meeting reunification guidelines; approximately 150 homeless are reunited with family through this program each year.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has assembled a Commission on Homelessness to address the issue from a broad, holistic perspective. With the community, DDI will continue to monitor and engage in the process.

  1. DPD K2 initiative: DPD, DART Police, and El Centro Police are working together to address K2 sales and use Downtown. The three law enforcement agencies collaborate with the Dallas County Sherriff’s Department and the District Attorney to hold K2 dealers on high bond and ensure they are prosecuted and not given a plea bargain.

STATUS: DPD targets K2 manufacturers and dealers, and has made over 60 K2 dealer arrests YTD. Dallas County District Attorney aggressively prosecutes K2 cases, holding dealers on high bond and sending them to prison for 4 to 20 years.

 

Thank you for taking an active role in making sure Downtown Dallas is safe and inviting for all! We’re all in this together, and appreciate your feedback.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Team

CRE Opinion: Why Modern Streetcar is Important for Downtown and the City

As reported by D CEO here.

By: Kourtny Garrett and Dustin Bullard

This month, we will be faced with many critical choices related to public transportation in Dallas. Routes, funding, and priorities will be discussed and debated, ultimately making decisions that will have generational impact. Among these is the proposed next phase of Dallas’ modern streetcar system, currently operating from Oak Cliff to the southwestern edge of Downtown. Continuing to expand today’s system is a top priority for Downtown Dallas Inc. (DDI) as we plan for the future of our center city and its connectivity to all of Dallas.

Current Status

The current modern streetcar line, the “Dallas Streetcar,” was envisioned to be the bud of a comprehensive system that would better connect the urban neighborhoods of our city. Modeled after many great cities with aspirational qualities for our future, it also evokes Dallas’ past, a time when streetcar added to the depth, density, commerce, and experience in downtown—growing and connecting neighborhoods in Oak Cliff, Fair Park, South Dallas, East Dallas, and what is now Uptown and Knox-Henderson.

Today, an immediate opportunity exists to take the next step toward recreating that fully expanded system by connecting the Oak Cliff line of Dallas Streetcar through the core of downtown to the McKinney Avenue Trolley. Called the Central Dallas Link, the proposed line provides the necessary connections for further extensions, and with a $90M price tag comes a sooner-rather-than-later (est. 2019-2020) funding potential from the Federal Transit Administration and matching funds from DART. This is in addition to the benefit of expanded transit access to some of the highest job and housing concentrations in Dallas in the midst of unprecedented growth, catalytic development potential, and opportunity to enhance a sense of place in downtown.

The Central Dallas Link has four potential alignments undergoing study [see graphic] with ultimate decisions made by the Dallas City Council and DART Board. Of the four, DDI has previously supported the “Elm-Commerce” alignment, but with the recent emergence of a stakeholder-supported preference for a Commerce Street subway for the DART second light rail alignment (D2), factors related to construction, service coverage, and ridership are important to consider. Comprehensive planning is imperative with the many unique opportunities in front of us, from highway tear-outs to bike plans, however regardless of the specific route of the Central Dallas Link, two things are important: one, we must seize this immediate opportunity to advance a project that is long overdue and essential to advancing a larger system, and two, we must start planning future phases of that larger system now.

Vision and Value

In 2011, The 360 Plan, our strategic plan for Downtown and its connected neighborhoods, emphasized the importance of streetcar and introduced desire lines for a fully built-out system:

As the center of the city and one of the region’s most prominent employment centers, downtown is the place where freeways, arterial roads, commuter rail, light rail, bus lines, and trolley cars all converge. However, despite this range of transportation, most of the emphasis is on the automobile and there is a lack of connectivity between these different modes of travel…A modern streetcar network can be the glue that binds downtown’s established destinations together and the framework along which new development can rebuild the fabric of the central city.

The update to The 360 Plan, due out this fall, builds on this vision and provides a framework for further mode diversification by enhancing pedestrian, bike, and public transportation options, and stressing localized, high capacity, frequent, and reliable service.

The value of streetcar has been proven throughout the country, from established systems like Portland’s to new systems like Kansas City’s, which according to reports, has generated more than 2.4 million trips since its opening in May 2016. In Dallas, streetcar will similarly support existing and future growth. Since 2010, the central area of Dallas, including downtown, has continued to drive the highest rate of population growth in the city and remains the largest employment center in the region. Sustaining and amplifying this base of jobs and housing is greatly dependent on a robust multi-modal transportation network that creates inter-area connections that deliver equal access to housing, jobs, entertainment, education, services, amenities, and recreation.

Furthermore, streetcars are a proven transportation option that can reduce dependence on auto usage, especially for those making “short trips” within the central Dallas area or looking for complementary service to bus or light rail. In fact, in a recent study focused on a 2.5-mile radius of downtown (the geography of The 360 Plan), GPS data showed that nearly 20 percent of all trips never left the study area, instead moving between neighborhoods like Main Street to Deep Ellum, West End to Dallas Farmers Market, the Cedars to the Arts District, and so on. Streetcar gives an alternative to making these trips by car, thereby reducing automobile dependence, lowering congestion and parking demand, and improving walkability.

Finally, as a locally serving system, streetcar has tremendous placemaking potential. The investment in streetcar infrastructure can have transformational impacts on the public realm, creating more humane corridors that are proven to spur additional private investment and street life.

Economic Impact

Current study of the four proposed alignments includes a Comparative Economic Benefits Assessment conducted by HR&A Associates, commissioned by DDI. In cooperation, operations, maintenance, ridership, and cost recovery models are being led by DART and the City of Dallas. These studies will inform alignment preferences by all parties to be determined in concert with D2 LPA determination over the next 30-60 days. Regardless of the route, preliminary analysis of the economics proves streetcar as a net positive, as any of the four alignments:

  • Increase the number of blocks with transit adjacency by more than 100.
  • Deliver ¼ mile or less new access to rail transit to more than 62,000 current employees.
  • Better connect our entertainment districts and benefit tourism, serving more than 3,100 hotel rooms and 800,000 visitors, with a spending potential of over $136 million yearly.
  • Equal a commercial real estate premium. Projections show streetcar could have a positive net impact on leased office space, ranging from 0.5 million square feet up to just over 1 million square feet, depending on the alignment, with a corresponding increase in jobs, and an average $50 million increase in value.
  • Positively impact residential growth by stimulating more units and greater assessed value at a possible $17 million high, building Dallas’ tax base.

The Time is Now

For more than a decade, DDI has continued to advocate for the establishment and growth of a streetcar network. Strengthening multi-modal mobility options in our center city will enable us to be economically competitive, attracting new residents and talent who expect and are accustomed to high quality, well-connected urban environments. The importance of moving forward with the Central Dallas Link now cannot be stressed enough, with immediate attention also paid to the full network—north, south, east, and west—that will deliver a vibrant and robust system in the future that reconnects us with the past, for downtown and the city.

Kourtny Garrett is president and CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Dustin Bullard is vice president of public space and design at Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Welcomes New Hire Matt Thomas

Matt Thomas Headshot 2017

Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) warmly welcomes Matt Thomas to its team as Communications Director.  In this position, Matt will oversee the organization’s content creation, communications, media relations programs, and community relationships.

Matt Thomas has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas/Fort Worth for more than a decade.  His career started right out of high school with internships at two radio stations.  He then moved to New York City, where he attended college and spent time interning at some of the biggest radio stations and network news operations in the country.  Matt returned to North Texas, where he continued his broadcast career as an airborne traffic reporter and news anchor at local radio stations.  In 2005, he accepted a position as a full-time street reporter and anchor at the NewsRadio station in Houston.  There, he covered several high-profile stories, including all of the Enron fraud and conspiracy trial, the Andrea Yates murder retrial, and Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.  Matt spent weeks covering the aftermath of Katrina by providing live reports to listeners from New Orleans.

He returned to North Texas in late 2006 to accept a position at KRLD radio and the Texas State Network.  Matt’s street reporting, anchoring, and leadership skills in his more than a decade at the station resulted in numerous Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism.  Most recently, he was named “Best Reporter” by the Texas AP Broadcasters and he received the prestigious Charles E. Green award by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for his on-scene coverage of the deadly attack on police officers in Dallas in July 2016.

Matt is now transitioning to his new role as Communications Director for DDI. “I can’t think of a better way to continue to share stories that have an impact than joining the DDI team and using new media platforms to highlight the great things that are happening in Downtown Dallas and the surrounding districts,” Matt said.

Matt produced and hosted more than 200 original shows in conjunction with DDI and former CEO and current Vice Chairman John Crawford during a critical period of transition for the city’s core.  Each Sunday on KRLD, Pulse of the City highlighted an area of Downtown Dallas experiencing new development and activity.  “Downtown Dallas and the neighboring districts have come such a long way in my time here, and it is absolutely thrilling to be here to help DDI and this tremendous staff share all the great things that are happening now and are yet to come,” Thomas said.

Matt grew up in the Denton area, and has always had a great love for the buildings that make up what USA Today has named the “Best International Skyline.”  In addition to storytelling and Downtown, Matt is passionate about golf, the Texas Rangers, and animal rescue operations in North Texas.  For the past several years, he has helped emcee the annual “Basset Shuffle” event benefitting North Texas Basset Hound Rescue.  In addition to his three rescue dogs, Matt has a wife and toddler who are the joys of his life.

Remembering July 7, 2016

Today and through this weekend we will commemorate the tragic events of July 7, 2016, remembering those who were lost and express gratitude to those who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe.

Here is a list of opportunities to participate:

We continue to hold our fallen and wounded officers and their families in our hearts and are grateful to the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Fire-Rescue, DART Police Department, and El Centro Police for their diligence, courage, and strength.

We also express tremendous thanks to our own field teams, the Downtown Safety Patrol and Clean Team, to whom keeping Downtown safe and clean is always the number one priority.  They are led in an outstanding way by Martin Cramer, Dustin Bullard, and Jordan Jay who are never shy to go “above and beyond.”

Our community will never forget, we will not move on.  But we will move forward, carrying with us the strength and courageous spirit of our fallen officers and inspiration from those who remain dedicated to the quality of life of the citizens of Dallas.

We appreciate all of you and your support of our Downtown community.