An 8-year-old was grazed by a stray bullet that went through his Royal Lane apartment in January. The police raided an illegal gambling operation on Skillman. Resident Taqueria’s Andrew Savoie was robbed and beaten. Meanwhile, neighbors are concerned about car theft, house break-ins and gang activity.
“This senseless violence will stop,” Police Chief Renee Hall, a Lake Highlands resident, told WFAA after the 8-year-old was hurt. “We are determined that it will.” Hall and City officials declared they can’t fight crime alone.
The overall crime rate in Lake Highlands is 74% higher than the national average.
For every 100,000 people, there are 12.27 daily crimes that occur in Lake Highlands. Lake Highlands is safer than 18% of cities in the Texas. In Lake Highlands you have a 1 in 23 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.
A shortage in police officers, a violent year for Dallas and a population increase have led to the boosted involvement of three Public Improvement Districts in our neighborhood. The PIDs help reduce crime by working with property owners, business owners and apartment communities. They have meetings with security companies, Dallas Police Department and EMT coordinators. They also provide off-duty police officers to control properties within the district.
Public safety, neighborhood beautification and community engagement are the goals. “We all want to have a safe place to live, work and raise our families,” says Vicky Taylor, executive director of South Lake Highlands PID. “How do we work together with that common goal?”
The North Lake Highlands PID, South Lake Highlands PID and Vickery Midtown PID are the three organizations covering our neighborhood. PID leaders spend time with DPD and Neighborhood Police Officers (NPOs).
It’s a little unnerving when you’re trying to relax at home and you’re hearing random gunfire and the way it echoes off buildings,” says Chuck Laughlin, executive director of North Lake Highlands PID. “You can’t really tell where it’s at, so it always feels like it’s right next door.”
One concern for the Vickery Midtown PID is the Five Points intersection.
“Our commitment to private security is around $300,000 in the year 2020,” says Ted Palles, president of Vickery Midtown PID. “With those funds, we are focusing our resources and trying to come up with strategies to improve security around the entire Five Points areas and into the throat of our community where we have a broader heat map of crime.”
Stacey Roth, Vickery Midtown PID public safety coordinator, has spent seven years developing a close relationship with the Dallas Police Department and the neighborhood’s private security team. They meet weekly for an hour to discuss the issues and attack them. “I track the crime,” Roth says.
Coordinators and officers also teach property managers how to select good tenants and legally evict problem tenants. These lessons benefit sister properties.
Another area of concern is the SoPac Trail, which lacks proper lighting. PID coordinators are working with the City on that issue. In addition, the North and South Lake Highlands PIDs are trying to lower crime by creating a teen job fair to keep kids off the streets, Trunk or Treat to provide a safe place for children on Halloween and the Forest Audelia Boxing Gym.
Taylor credits Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough for many of these initiatives. McGough runs the City’s Public Safety Committee, which works with the PIDs.
“We have an awesome city councilman and he leads the way on a lot of things happening in this community,” Taylor says. “I think the initiatives that Adam has taken has really made an impact.”
Many of the leaders in the public improvement districts have different backgrounds and experiences, but their reasons for joining are similar.
“I’ve had four kids graduate from Lake Highlands High School and I’ve always seen the need to be involved,” Taylor says. “Working with the PID showed me a different avenue, where I can make more of an impact and effect change in the community. This keeps my adrenaline pumping because I am very outgoing in my thinking of how we can be better as a community.”
Laughlin moved to the area more than 30 years ago, served on the Lake Highlands advisory board and says he wanted to help improve the area.
David Whitley, executive director of Vickery Midtown PID, emphasizes that it will take all neighbors to make a difference. “It doesn’t just lay on one person’s shoulders,” he says. “It takes all of us thinking very creatively about how we can craft some specific solution that will work in our community. It’s about how we get together and roll up our sleeves to solve these problems versus us thinking it’s just a Dallas Police Department issue because it’s not. It’s a people’s issue.”
Who are the leaders in our neighborhood’s Public Improvement Districts?
Vicky Taylor moved from Kansas City in 2001, and she was a 2018 Advocate Fierce Female. Formerly the public safety coordinator, she works with the PID to make more of an impact and effect change in the community.
Chuck Laughlin moved to Dallas in 1988, and was most recently director of information technology & services at Medical City Dallas Hospital. He loves the neighborhood’s diversity and strength of community.
David Whitley was previously the associate director of the Dallas CityDesign Studio. He now owns an urban planning firm, DRW Planning Studio. His practice aids municipalities and non-profit clients.