Photo taken during a 2009 arrest in the Forest-Audelia area. (By Can Turkyilmaz)

Photo taken during a 2009 arrest in the Forest-Audelia area. (By Can Turkyilmaz)

The violence, more often, happens among ‘astray’ teens. And it is ‘not something you can arrest your way out of’ …

Over the years, the Dallas Police Department’s Northeast Division has used warrant roundups and special operations as a means to address the troubled, crime riddled Forest-Audelia region. They have implemented programs to encourage local apartment owners to support improvement by better screening renters and complying with city codes. Now they are trying something new — a festival featuring a popular motivational speaker, three-point contest and a rap battle in the Aldi parking lot.

Deputy Chief Andrew Acord says a new series of community events and projects is about improving relationships between police officers and neighborhood youths in that northeastern sector of Lake Highlands.

“There are a lot of programs for kids, but not for teenagers,” he says, adding that crime in the region is “not just something you can arrest your way out of.”

While violence is an evident problem in the Forest-Audelia area, especially among young men, Acord says actual, organized gangs are not particularly problematic around here.

“You hear people talking about gangs over at Forest-Audelia,” Acord says. “Well, in my opinion, they are, maybe, kind-a, sorta, but not really. They are mostly just kids who are astray. They think they are gangs, but in the true sense of the word they are not.”

Most of the teens involved in Forest-Audelia crime are from Lake Highlands or Berkner high schools. Sometimes it is that rivalry that sparks fighting, police say.

The speaker that the DPD has secured for this weekend’s event, Lamont Levels, was “the real thing,” when it comes to gangs, Acord continues.

“Lamont is a former real gang member who started the Bloods in south Dallas. Lamont made hundreds of thousands of dollars and one night, going into collect $300,000, he’s met by one of his own people who shoots him in the face.”

Today, Levels is permanently blind, and he visits high schools to tell his story to students and, hopefully, nudge them in a different direction. He spoke at Lake Highlands High School last week, Acord says, and at one point you could hear a pin drop in the gymnasium. His message is that “he lost his vision so he could see,” Acord says.

Lamont Levels at LHHS. (From Twitter)

Lamont Levels at LHHS. (From Twitter)

This weekend’s festival will be the first in a regular series, Acord says.

“This is not going to be a one-time thing and then we leave,” he says. “It may take two or three attempts to let the kids know we are here to stay.”

In fact, the police plan to partner with Richland College for a three-on-three basketball tournament the following weekend, which we will let you know more about soon. Those wanting to participate will be able to register at this weekend’s festival.

The Forest-Audelia Community Unity Festival is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Forest-Audelia, in the Aldi parking lot. It features free food, games for kids, an exhibition by first responders, a talk by Lamont Levels, a “positive message” rap battle, K104 personalities, a job fair and more.