Assistant Chief Marvin Bullard of the Dallas Police Department tells citizens: “Few offenses occur that somebody doesn’t know something about. If the police department knew what you know,” Dallas could sharply reduce its crime problem.
Police would seem to have little difficulty motivating residents when a group such as the now-arrested “phone line gang” strikes repeatedly in the community.
Martha Swayze of Lake Highlands North Crime Watch says the string of burglaries and two shootings the gang committed after Thanksgiving heightened awareness in her neighborhood.
“Several people bought cellular telephones to use in case the gang cut their phone lines,” Swayze says. “We were very glad to see them apprehended.”
Yet, Lake Highlands residents can learn from what happened recently in East Dallas when one of the gang members shot a resident of the Caruth Meadows neighborhood, just a few blocks south of Northwest Highway. That night, none of the victim’s neighbors seemed to hear the incident.
Even when the gang returned hours later to the man’s house and drove his car through the kitchen wall and then burglarized the place, neighbors apparently failed to notice.
The phone line gang operated for weeks out of a house on McCommas Boulevard in the Lower Greenville section of East Dallas before a neighbor finally turned them in to police.
“Our daughter kept telling her dad and me how weird they were,” says Patty Smith, who lives across the street from arrested phone line bandit Karl Anderson.
“But we just told her to mind her own business.”
Meanwhile, Caruth Meadows residents, who were in the process of reviving their Crime Watch when burglars struck seven times within a two-week period after Thanksgiving, are trying to put such attitudes behind them.
The quiet neighborhood of 520 homes, many occupied by older people, is located south of Lovers Lane, between Skillman and Abrams roads. When Reena Morris called an initial meeting in October, about 125 people appeared.
Still, the burglaries seemed to hit them off-guard.
“We were in the process of appointing our Crime Watch block captains and section coordinators when the burglaries happened,” says Luther Terry, the group’s co-director.
“We had some people who were reluctant to participate,” says Terry, who retired two years ago from E-Systems, where he was assistant corporate secretary.
“They didn’t have anything against the idea. They just hadn’t had any problems, and they weren’t too interested.
However, “I would say we have a bunch of alert people at this point,” Terry says.
Luther and Jeane Terry moved to their home in Caruth Meadows on May 10, 1964 (a date Jeane recalls without hesitation), and found the local elementary school, Dan D. Rogers, to be a focal point for the neighborhood.
But they say busing sent the local kids elsewhere and caused the neighborhood to change. Young families stopped moving in, and people were less social. Rising crime also made people more cautious.
“This is a change I’ve had to make by living in a big city,” says Jeane Terry, who grew up in the west-central Texas town of Eastland.
“It creates a kind of free-floating anxiety. We’ve been here 42 years, and it seems like the character of the City has changed.”
Terry says: “Personally, I’m a lot more vigilant than I ever was before. I lock my doors, lock my car and do whatever I can to prevent burglaries.”
As members of Crime Watch, they’re getting to know their neighbors again, too. Block parties bring residents together. Neighbors also fill out charts provided by police that show houses and alleys around every house and phone numbers and addresses for each resident.
“To me, the most successful part of one of these things is having nosy neighbors,” Terry says. He cautions, however, that a low-key approach will probably work best for Crime Watch.
“Don’t do too much, but do it well. I don’t believe the neighbors will find time for a lot of meetings,” he says. “What we do hope to accomplish is to get people to visit with each other, know who their neighbors are and be nosy.”