Downtown Dallas: Panhandling, Robberies and K2, Oh My!

Judging from the tenor of the Downtown Dallas Resident Council's Facebook page this week, one might think Dallas' Central Business District had turned into some sort of urban hellscape.

"I just had some STUPID HOMELESS ASS try and rob me while I was parking my truck in West End!!!!!! I'm sorry but I do not care for these people anymore downtown something need to be done and need to be done quickly!!!  

If it was someone else that couldn't take care of themselves it might have been worse and God knows how long they've been out there trying to rob people," one poster wrote on Thursday.

On Wednesday, there was apparently more of the same: 

Ok. It's my first time commenting on anything like this:

A friend of mine was robbed at Akard and Main around 1am. Zero cop presence.

What is being done currently to keep this from happening and what can I do to move this effort forward?

I am super motivated and would like to know more.

I sure wish Downtown Dallas was the place I'd hoped it would become when I moved down here 4 years ago 
Friday morning the most serious incident of the bunch, a carjacking in the Davis Building parking garage on Main Street, was reported: 

I’m sorry to inform everyone we had another robbery incident. There was a car jacking and assault in The Davis Building garage last night at 9:30pm. Our downtown friend and neighbor Lori Hoff's sister was robbed, car jacked, and beaten at a secured location behind the gate on the 8th floor. Two men believed to be in their mid 20’s jumped in her car after she parked. One entered on the passenger side and one on the driver side. They demanded she give them her phone. The man who entered from the driver's side had a weapon in his hand. She couldn’t make out if it were a knife or gun it was a dark object. They then dragged her out of the car and began beating her head, pulling her hair, and hitting her face. She has a black eye and her face is completely swollen. There was blood everywhere in the garage. They drove off in her car, but strangely the cameras didn't catch the car leaving the garage until 11:30pm. (—Update: Just found out the timing was off due to the camera's standard time settings—) This is getting ridiculous and very, very scary. This is a female's worst nightmare to be robbed in a garage. The police of course are on the case, but I wanted to share with everyone for awareness and to take necessary precautions when out. Also [pray] for Lori Hoff since she's sitting with her sister in the hospital. Her sister is 37 years old and her name is Sarah. Please keep her in your prayers.
More stories emerged in the comments. Brandon Luke, who operates the Woolworth bar on Elm Street, said at least five of his employees have been robbed downtown in the last five months. One resident reported calling the Downtown Safety Patrol to escort him on his DART ride home, while others suggested they no longer felt safe walking around the neighborhood after dark. The visceral responses and the nature of the incidents are scary. Downtown Dallas does have a panhandling problem and a burgeoning problem with K2 — a cheap, synthetic drug that has purportedly caused over 200 overdose incidents in downtown since the beginning of December. As far as robberies go, though, there hasn't been any sort of an uptick, at least in what's being reported to the Dallas Police Department.

Of the three incidents detailed above, only the carjacking had been reported to DPD, as of Friday afternoon. Since the beginning of December, there are two reported robberies of individuals to be found in the DPD report system in the Elm/Main/Commerce downtown corridor.

"What I think is really going on is a kind of storm of separate things that people are conflating and that is a problem because the perception of lack of safety is really bad," Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston says. "The three things are: the rather obvious increase in homelessness and panhandling, the K2 epidemic — something like 12 calls a day — and the third thing is violent robberies. There aren't that many violent robberies but how many violent robberies does it take before you're frightened and upset."

In an attempt to allay the fears and hear the concerns of the community, Luke is hosting a public safety meeting at the Woolworth Monday night. Kingston and representatives from DPD will be there, as will members of the Downtown Dallas Inc. leadership. Kingston says it's important to keep things productive.

"Some of the social media stuff that has been going on relative to panhandling I think is positive because it brings attention to it and they're demanding new solutions because we just haven't been able to do anything effective," he says. "But, I would really warn people against conflating that with these more serious problems — violent robberies and K2."