Crime Illustration by Christine Smith
Illustration by Christine Smith

From the initial lockdown to varying phases of reopening, the pandemic coincided with fluxes in neighborhood crime last year, according to public improvement district officials.

Beginning with Dallas County’s shelter-in-place order in March, north and south Lake Highlands experienced significant decreases in violent crimes, they said.

Vickery Meadow also experienced these dropoffs in violent, as well as nonviolent crimes. But the area saw a “huge jump” in auto-related crimes, such as stealing car parts, vehicle burglary and vehicle theft, says Stacey Roth, Vickery Midtown public safety coordinator.

In these three sections of the neighborhood, crime played out with slight differences over the remaining nine months of 2020. 

North Lake Highlands

Drug and gun violence made up most of the crimes in the northern part of the neighborhood before March, says Chuck Laughlin, North Lake Highlands PID director. A dip in mostly violent crimes came in March and lasted through part of May.

“Crime had started to increase again a little bit as things started opening back up,” Laughlin says. 

Business burglary made up a lot of this resurgence, he says, along with other crimes of opportunity, such as car
break-ins. 

“It’s a speculation that with people losing their jobs because of COVID, they’re looking at opportunities,” Laughlin says. “People are looking for ways to get by. A lot of them are carrying more money because they’re having to take jobs where they’re getting paid in cash.”

North Lake Highlands saw a dip in crimes in the summer months, Laughlin says, but then a spike came again in August. He says the PID was gearing up for violent crimes to rise in September as it had the year before.

“I don’t know if it was due to the pandemic, but we didn’t see that come about this year,” Laughlin says.

The Dallas Police Department launched the Starlight Program in September. Going into October, Laughlin says there was a decrease in more than 30 incidents compared to crime in September.

“We’re really monitoring to see what the longer term effects of that is,” he says.

South Lake Highlands

Property crimes, car burglaries, auto theft, general theft and occasional robberies and assaults made up most of South Lake Highlands’ issues pre-COVID, says Vicky Taylor, South Lake Highlands PID executive director.  

Burglaries and auto theft remained the most prevalent offenses south of I-635 during the pandemic, Taylor says. But overall crime fell in the area during COVID. 

“Violent crimes seemed to be the most scarce,” Taylor says. 

She thinks the drop in crime is due to more people staying at home. 

“There were less people out doing crime, there was less potential,” she says. “Kids were more in the house with their parents and couldn’t get out and do as many things.”

To keep crime at bay in South Lake Highlands, the PID kept in contact with its partners in the community, including local business and apartment owners, property managers and the apartment community. 

“All these groups working together, crime has reduced a lot,” she says. “It wasn’t horrible prior to the pandemic, and it just kind of stayed steady.”

Vickery Meadow 

Going into November, Vickery Meadow was on track to have either a slight decrease or around the same amount of crime compared to years prior, says Roth, the area’s public safety coordinator. 

“I was a little surprised,” she says. “I thought crime would have been on the increase.”

Residential burglaries saw a decrease in the remainder of 2020. But this explains the area’s trend of higher auto-related crimes during COVID. About 50 % of Vickery Meadow’s crime reports was vehicle-related.

“Residential burglaries are down because people are home during the day,” Roth says. “Vehicle burglaries are up because people are home during the day.”

Roth says she was surprised other crime trends did not bubble to the surface during the pandemic.   

“I thought we would see more of an increase in family violence or domestic-related issues,” she says.

Family violence in Vickery Meadow has remained the same during COVID, she says. The area’s overall crime rate decrease during COVID marks a steady decline in offenses, especially homicides, over the last few years. 

“People have spoken to me about the history of the area; they said it would not be unusual for you to have 20 murders in a year in this area,” she says. “In the past two years, we had one year with absolutely none. This year we’ve had two. The crime situation is really getting much, much better.”