As mentioned late last month, property owners and vendors around the Dallas Farmers Market have been not-so-subtly courting DPD for a new substation in their neighborhood, and based on this morning's bimonthly police-hosted meeting, that's probably where it'll go -- just as soon as someone comes up with the money. (Assistant Chief Vince Golbeck told Robert as much two weeks ago.)
DPD's getting evicted from its current downtown substation in the West End on August 31 after 20 years of dollar-a-month rent (making room for a new charter school), and while Lt. Anthony Williams said today he hoped to have a new location in place by next month, he guesses it'll take till December or January before the city council will approve extra funding for a more expensive new spot. Soon, he said, DPD will send out a letter asking safety-minded citizens if they might spare a dime to help cover rent on a new substation, from which they will, among other duties, help keep panhandlers off the streets.
"I think it will speed up the process with the city council if donors step up," Williams said. "Eventually we're gonna need a home."
On Sunday, police launched a tougher-on-crime initiative around the area -- 14 arrests in three days, so far -- at the behest of the mayor, Williams said. "He wanted an initiative not only at the Farmers Market, he wanted an initiative at The Bridge," Williams said.
Of 733 calls for police through July this year, 114 have been from The Bridge, Williams said -- most for assault, theft and criminal trespass (jump for detailed new crime numbers from the Central Business District). In fact, most of this morning's meeting covered concerns about crime by homeless -- and not-so-homeless folks -- hanging around The Bridge.
"Many of the homeless are now heading south of the freeway" and into the Cedars, Williams said, now that the central library has cut its hours way back. Anyway, many of the homeless population's toughest offenders aren't homeless at all, according to Ron Cowert with the city's Crisis Intervention team (the mental health specialists who cover the city's unsheltered homeless population). Pointing to a page of the Central Business District's "Top 20 Offenders," Cowert said he's worked with police and found that "a great many of these folks on this list are not on these encampments, they're not at The Bridge."
Still, Tanya Ragan was one of the property managers at the meeting with lots of questions about how The Bridge is working with police to make sure it's not harboring active criminals with warrants out.
"It has an open-door policy where everyone and anyone can go in and go out," Ragan told Unfair Park after the meeting. "The problem with that is, it has developed such a reputation it's now attracting people from other cities, from other states. The goal of the facility is to help people who need service, but it's become the hideaway for all these other elements.The people that it's meant to help, they're afraid to go to the facility."
Beat cops at the meeting mentioned how many people they've picked up who've come into Dallas from out of town because, as Officer Brynley Wetton said, "they've heard Dallas is a place where homeless people get fed."
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As for the new substation, which would make the Farmers Market the base of DPD's downtown presence, Williams said they've got two prime candidates for the 11,000 square-foot substation he wants: 1800 Jackson Street and 810 S. St. Paul Street. (Here's a map for comparison). Of the two, Williams told Unfair Park after the meeting he'd choose the latter, on St. Paul between Canton and Cadiz, because "it puts us in an economically depressed area."
"I know it's nice, I know it's sexy," to be right downtown, he said, but it's "more important to be where we can have an economic impact."
Till then, he said, downtown cops will be working out of the East Dallas storefront on Bryan Street, and he hopes to set up a temporary unit for bike storage in Deep Ellum.