By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Ask Barbara Edmondson, an apartment developer and operator. She spent a quarter-million dollars rehabbing 20 townhomes in a 30-unit complex on Dixon Avenue, midway between Fair Park and Rochester Park in South Dallas.
But she's having a little problem. People are afraid to rent from her because of the crack dealers who operate an open-air drug bazaar on her parking lot.
"Yesterday they had my gates marked with balloons, and the gates were absolutely packed with drug dealing," she told me last week.
I'm stupid. I have to ask. What balloons?
Birthday balloons. You know, the big fancy Mylar kind filled with helium.
"That's how they mark, so people will know where to come in to get their drugs," Edmondson explains.
That's for daytime. She has video of the operation at night. The drug dealers send kids down to the gates on the street to wave people in with flashlights.
You might be like me. You thought drug dealers hid from the police. Not in South Dallas. They use spotlights to attract attention to themselves.
Edmondson tells me, "The one that I call 'the Judge,' that we found out is the main drug dealer, the police asked me to get his license tag number."
What? Now I'm really stupid. The police asked you to get the Judge's car tags? She says yeah. They told her they wanted to be sure they were going for the right guy.
How about just going for the guy selling crack cocaine out of a pea-green Malibu convertible with balloons tied to it and spotlights pointed at him?
Edmondson's not stupid. She asked her apartment manager to get the tags. The manager, a woman, drove out there, eyeballed the Judge and wrote down his tags. "She got the license, and as the manager goes out, the Judge raises his fist and shakes it at her."
And for what? Last time Edmondson insisted that police do something about the Judge, they went out there and asked him to move his car off her property and onto the street. No mention of the crack cocaine sales.
The attitude Edmondson has gotten from the cops--until recently, when she had a chance to talk to the new chief, David Kunkle--has been that crack is a part of the culture. There's nothing she or they or anybody else can do about it.
"They told me that the money is unbelievably good in the drug industry. The greed is so great, you get them out and someone else will take over their territory."
They did have a suggestion. She says a police official handed her the rate sheet for hiring police officers off duty. "They were not doing their duty through the police department," she says, "but they were willing to do it on the side."
I wouldn't be so struck by stories like this if I didn't keep hearing them from so many people. Khraish Khraish and his father own single-family rental properties in South and West Dallas. He caught some guys hauling stuff out of one of their properties on Canal Street, southeast of Fair Park, less than a mile from Edmondson's properties.
"I confronted these people, who were stealing appliances out of my house. I said, 'I want you to stop.'"
No. Not stop. They attacked him instead, for irritating them.
"I literally called 911 as I was being assaulted," Khraish tells me. "I'm telling her, 'They're running after me! They've got me!' I was screaming as this was happening."
He got loose and outran them. They gave up the chase, went back and finished hauling off his appliances. He returned to his property and sat there on the stoop, waiting for the police to come. For hours.
"No one ever came," he said. "That's a typical story. That's what happens out here."
Marsha DiMarco's family has been in the apartment business in Southern Dallas for 30 years. Her father owned a lumber yard and was a builder. She manages her own property and is also a manager for other owners. DiMarco's not a newcomer or a shrinking violet.
But some properties you just have to let go. She told me about an apartment building she owned just off Hutchins Avenue, three blocks from the river in North Oak Cliff. She said there was a really bad drug house next door.
"They were just shooting at police every day," she said.
Oh, wait. I must be having another attack of the stupids. I have to back up. They were what?
"Shooting at police," she said. "Shooting at tenants, shooting at people just driving by."
"It got so bad, we pretty much told the city they could have this property back, because there was just no way we could keep people there."
I hate it when that happens.
So why would the cops act like they can't do anything about rampant crime? There are at least two answers here. Some cops, after all, still do fight crime. Another side of these horror stories from property owners is that some lone officer takes pity on them, gets mad, hikes up his or her drawers and kicks ass.