Earlier this year, Dallas Police Deputy Chief Andrew Acord, commander of the northeast division of the Dallas Police Department, talked to members of the Forest-Audelia area about gangs.
We were holding onto some misconceptions about gangs in our area, he said at the time.
“You hear people talking about gangs over at Forest-Audelia,” Acord said. “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.”
Whether astray youths or bona-fide gang members, young men from our neighborhood — mostly in apartments that surround our neighborhood, that is — were, and are, dying. Young men like Simba Porter and Chris Gordon, who had their whole lives ahead of them, left former teachers grieving and recalling their promise.
More recently a young woman was caught in crossfire. The list of violence and death could go on. Many of these deaths — drive-bys, parking lot duels — seem related to gangs or people who “think they are gangs” — not just to us reporters and civilians, but also to former police, according to a recent WFAA story about gang-related violence and the lack of gang specialists in the police force:
“The [DPD gang] unit once numbered closer to 30 gang enforcement officers and detectives. These days, there’s just nine. Five were recently assigned to help out the unit.
“To me, it’s unexplainable. They can’t do their job. They can’t,” said Wes Melton, who recently left the department and now owns a karate dojo.
Fort Worth, by comparison, has three sergeants and 28 officers assigned to its unit.”
WFAA reports speaking with numerous Dallas police officials knowledgeable about the city’s gang situation. “They could not be named because they feared retribution, but they back up Melton’s assessment that DPD doesn’t have enough manpower dedicated to tackling the gang issue.”
Melton tells WFAA he was instructed to stop documenting gang-related murders.
If you look at any Dallas Police report online, there is a space indicating whether a crime is gang related. Most indicate “no” and some indicate “UNK” (unknown), but I’ve yet to see one since the reporting system changed in 2014 that identified a crime as “yes,” gang related (I haven’t looked at all of the thousands of reports, but I’ve sifted through hundreds in the past two years.) It makes sense, though, since Acord says we do not have a real gang problem. City Council members are reporting less gang crimes, far less — like a decrease of 200 in Far North Dallas, says council member Sandy Greyson.
Police say part of it is “better distinctions” when recording-slash-reporting crimes.
Melton reportedly thinks that’s “baloney.” He tells the WFAA the city is in denial. He says that the recently formed Forest-Audelia violent crime task force cannot be as effective as a robust unit, when it comes to gang-type violence.
Earlier this year, DPD deployed its violent crimes task force to the Forest-Audelia area. Melton and other members of the task force were parked outside of an apartment complex this past March.
Two young gang members were shot and killed inside an apartment.
“There was a big sign right there at the intersection that said ‘Beware the violent crimes task force is present,'” Melton said. “The individual had to drive by all those Dallas police officers, drive into that apartment complex, commit a murder against two individuals, get back in a car and drive right back by those same officers. Sitting in an area is not going to deter gang members.”
Even Lamont Levels, a former gang member who started the Bloods in south Dallas, who now speaks out in an effort to deter kids from the life, a guy Acord last year called “the real thing,” says to WFAA:
“Our politicians are ignoring that we got a gang problem.”
Gang members in the Forest Lane and Audelia Road area of Northeast Dallas have taken to calling it “Northghanistan.”
“When a gang unit is not present, who are the gang members going to be scared of?” he says. “They’re not scared of the regular officers. That’s why you have the random shootings — so many random shootings that you’re having now.”
The Forest-Audelia violent crime task force has had a positive impact on overall crime, DPD and D10 Councilman Adam McGough report. That particular task force has led to about a 13 percent reduction in citywide crime McGough said at a recent Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit.