At 2 a.m. on June 25, automatic gunfire rained more than 40 bullets through the Colinas Royale apartment complex at Royal and Abrams, striking a 13-year-old boy in the head and injuring his 10-year-old sister with flying debris. Both are expected to fully recover.
The condition of the two children weighed heavily on the mind of Andrew Turner as he attended Monday night’s community crime meeting, but he was also thinking of two other children – his own. Turner has a 3-year-old and his wife is expecting a baby. Less than a year ago, the couple purchased a home directly behind Colinas Royale.
“One night we heard gunshots about midnight, then the next night, more gunshots. Then, of course this one. We haven’t had bullets actually come through the fence, but the gunshots wake us up.”
In March, his truck was stolen while parked out front. The couple moved from the Casa Linda area to Lake Highlands seeking better schools and more room for their expanding family. They wonder if they made the wrong decision.
“It’s not necessarily the area, but over the past six months with gunshots so close, we’ve questioned the house. We’re hopeful things will improve.”
Turner listened closely to Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough, Dallas Police Northeast Division Commander Malik Aziz, U.S. Attorney General Erin Nealy Cox and other partners in Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) describe their plan to combat increasing crime – especially gang crime – in Lake Highlands apartments.
“We have three main goals: to increase public safety, improve quality of life and empower the community, but our first goal is to listen,” said McGough. “I’ve had lots of emails and we’re hearing what’s going on, including stray bullets coming into backyards. We’ve had tragedies and near-tragedies, so it’s not a situation where nothing has happened.”
“There’s got to be a call to action,” continued McGough, announcing a change in ownership of Colinas Royale and new management by a team cooperative with LH Public Improvement District (PID) leaders who push landlords to evict bad actors and improve security. “We need everyone to engage on this at some level. When you see something, you’ve got to call. I see a lot of this stuff on Nextdoor.com, but we don’t have the calls coming in.”
Community Prosecutor Cody Robinson agreed.
“You guys are the boots on the ground,” said Robinson. “We can’t know (about crime and criminals) unless you tell us. It’s the same for code infractions. Be that nuisance for your neighbors.”
During 2019, 99 police calls were made from or about Colinas Royale, and 25% of those were family calls.
Lt. David Davis of DPD’s gang unit took questions from attendees, concerned about graffiti popping up on walls around the neighborhood.
“SLOB is gang graffiti,” he confirmed. “It’s is a derogatory term for Bloods, and when you see it crossed out, that’s the work of the Crips.” Davis urged citizens to call the gang unit at 214-671-GANG when such symbols show up.
Sgt. Vincent Lee described PSN’s tactic of “targeting habitual life offenders by filing federally to seek longer sentences.” His team uses “assertive, progressive behavior” to go after bad guys, but, he cautioned, their covert enforcement means “results might not happen the day you call us.”
Cox’s team has filed 140 federal cases on behalf of PSN in the last year. Federal cases result in no bail and no parole for criminals, and longer sentences extend the time until they can return to menace the community, she said.
The state’s Department of Public Safety, which also joined the PSN team, has had success pursuing drug offenses as organized crime.
“We can’t do that without the citizens of Dallas,” said Regional Director Jeff Williams. “You’ve heard about response times. I can tell you what response times are if you don’t call. Zero.”
“I’m glad a lot of people showed up here,” said Turner after the meeting. “For me, it comes down to improving the complexes and collaborating with the police department.”