Concerned Business Owners Hire Off-Duty Cops to Patrol Deep Ellum This Weekend

Other security measures forthcoming may include self-monitoring camera systems and additional streetlights.
Other security measures forthcoming may include self-monitoring camera systems and additional streetlights.
Mark Graham
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The Deep Ellum Foundation is taking a new step this weekend to combat crime in the neighborhood. Ten off-duty Dallas Police officers will be working 20 shifts on Friday and Saturday nights in Deep Ellum, and private security officers will serve as a deterrent to crime during weekdays and on Sunday nights.

This security measure is being paid for by local business and property owners who have pooled their money. They're spending approximately $300,000 – triple the Deep Ellum Foundation’s operating security budget they established in January 2016.

Deep Ellum has seen a lot of change over the past year. New restaurants, venues, businesses and high rises have attracted a flood of new faces and dollars to the Central Track. But Jessica Burnham, executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation, is concerned about what she says is a rise in crime that comes with these visitors.

“Another big shift from the last couple of years has been the kinds of crime that’s been coming into Deep Ellum,” Burnham tells the Dallas Observer. “Now I feel like the crime is more [from] people coming into the neighborhood, who are not spending money in the neighborhood, and are kind of feeding off of the people here. And that’s a totally different element.”

These concerns spurred business owners to take a more hands-on approach. On May 7, at the Sons of Hermann Hall First Sunday meeting, Burham addressed the plan. “We’re trying to get businesses to chip in and commit to at least one month, but we’re going to go for four months,” she said. “By the end of the summer we’ll reevaluate and see where we’re at with the budget – how we can pull back if needed, how we can adjust the schedule.”

The Foundation has worked closely with Lonzo Anderson, DPD Deputy Chief, to add additional on-duty police officers to the area. They will also be present this weekend. But this program comes at a difficult time for DPD, which has lost around 250 officers in the last six months. The added police presence has been a long-awaited solution to the neighborhood’s recent influx of violent crime and vandalism, but Deep Ellum merchants clearly are not content to rely on police.

Deep Ellum merchants see this as a time to coordinate to help themselves. “To me it’s all hands on deck, we all have to be understanding," Burnham says. "But we all have to be vigilant and consistent and not give up."

Burnham said Deep Ellum is at its busiest during the summer, and this initial deployment of off-duty officers and security will ensure the program is prepared for the crowds by the time spring ends. At that point, the Foundation will look to other possible solutions to the security issues in Deep Ellum, such as a self-monitoring camera system or installing additional streetlights in vulnerable areas of the neighborhood.

“This is the first time we’ve had this much collaboration between the property owners, and the business owners and the Foundation, and so we’re starting out by saying what can we do,” Burnham said.

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