Crime in the streets unsettles a neighborhood.
We've lived in inner city East Dallas since 1999. For the most part our eclectic community has been free of crime, especially the violent sort. A few petty thieves, the normal run of drug mules and low-level dealers, gangs in the park--that sort of crime.
But now we have a ring of thugs who are smashing in front doors when people are at home. The latest wave of crime is very violent, incredibly brazen and very disturbing because of what appears to be the desperate nature of the criminals.
A couple of nights ago we observed the latest, and by far the clearest, evidence of the serious nature of what's going on here in our neighborhood. A block over from our street the police set up a check point. I don't think I've ever seen one in a residential neighborhood here before.
They were stopping every car and pedestrian moving up or down Fitzhugh Avenue between Junius and Worth Streets. Their purpose: to establish a visible presence in our neighborhood to send a clear signal to the "bad guys" that they needed to go away.
I'll have to admit that it made me feel good seeing them out there in full force. Must have been 6 or 7 squad cars and a full contingent of officers stopping cars, talking to everyone and letting everyone know they were here to stay, at least for a while. What we observed was obviously a well-planned "operation."
As I thought about it, my mind turned toward another neighborhood located in far South Dallas.
It is a very poor community. Crime has been widespread and expected in this area for a long, long time. The neighbors are working hard these days to turn out even a fraction of the police presence we observed in our area this week. I know because some of my friends and work associates are deeply involved.
Our neighborhood is poor, but not as poor as the South Dallas community I have in mind. Ours is very mixed, diverse in about every way. The South Dallas area is all minority and extremely poor, populated mostly by renters. The crime there is much worse, just as violent or more so than our recent eruption, and enduring to the point of being a community tradition.
The desires of the vast majority of the residents of both communities are clearly the same.
We want safe, clean, healthy, kid-friendly neighborhoods.
A few bad apples attempt to ruin it for both areas.
Sadly, the public response to these problems is quite different from one neighborhood to the other.
These differing responses speak clearly to the sorts of problems we still face here in Dallas.
Unfortunately, race, class, income, property values, home ownership rates and reputation still carry far too much weight in terms of how our city invests its limited public safety resources. And, I'm convinced it is the same in many other aspects of our public life and how we divide our assets.