Community leaders in Oak Cliff's Elmwood neighborhood are happy that an illegal casino has been crippled by the Dallas Police Department, after they spent months putting up with nuisances and threats from it and its patrons.
Elmwood residents first noticed something out of the ordinary was going on at the property in January. That's when the woman who leads the Elmwood neighborhood association's code compliance committee began hearing about increased activity at what she and her neighbors assumed was a vacant building.
"I received a call from the owner of Your Second Look [a salon located near the casino], and she said that she was doing hair late one afternoon and someone walked into her shop and asked her if it was the game room," said the woman, who asked us not to name her because she feared retaliation.
Strings of cars began to pack the streets around the gaming establishment and the salon, first on weekends and then seven days a week. As recently as Father's Day weekend, there were hundreds of cars parked throughout the neighborhood.
Concerned, the woman got in touch with DPD vice.
"They started doing an investigation, but it was a pretty lengthy process, because we started calling them in January," she said.
At least one member of the community tried to take matters into his own hands. Kenneth Denson, president of the Elmwood Neighborhood Association, camped out behind a trash bin to take photos of the casino on his walk home from one of the association's meetings one night in April.
"I didn't realize that where I was positioning myself was basically behind this illegal operation's overflow parking," Denson said, "so people pulled up right behind and saw me taking pictures."
After being spotted, Denson left his not-so-secret shooting spot and attempted to slink back home. A couple of the cars followed him.
"I thought, 'Well, maybe I'm just being paranoid,' so I stopped and smoked a cigarette in front of Hugo's Beer and Wine," he said. "They drove past and I thought 'OK, I was wrong,' but then they turned around and came back and parked at the beer and wine store."
Denson went inside the taco shop next door and called 911 because he didn't want to be followed home. When the police came to talk to the men following him, he scurried home.
"I thought nothing else of it until a couple of weeks later when I went into that beer and wine store," Denson said. "The guy behind the counter told me that the guys from the game room had been looking for me."
Knowing people were looking for him caused Denson to be insistent with police that something needed to be done about the game room soon. Cops told him that they were taking care of it and to go about his normal business.
Eventually cops were able to put together a case based on reports from residents and a confidential informant, says the area's City Council representative, Scott Griggs.
Late Monday night, six months after the initial complaints, Dallas vice cops and officers from the Southwest Patrol Division executed a search warrant at an unmarked business near the corner of Newport and Edgefield avenues.
Police seized 31 8-liner style machines, almost $4,700 in cash as well as documents and monitors from the building, Senior Corporal DeMarquis Black said.
"There's no place for illegal gaming facilities in the middle of residential neighborhoods," Griggs said, "so I'm pleased DPD was able to conduct the raid."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
The neighbors are just happy to be moving forward.
"We're really seriously trying to get something going to take our little neighborhood shopping area back," said the Elmwood association member, who has lived in the area for 20 years. "It could be a great area, but it has really gone downhill lately."
Denson was more blunt.
"We're really trying to turn our business district around, and this type of bullshit does not help," he said. "If someone is running an illegal business, we're going to do everything we can to see that they are either arrested for it or at least that the business is closed down."