In November, City Council member Adam Bazaldua first brought the issue to the Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee, which he chairs. He cited similar restrictions in other cities.
The committee decided to hold a public hearing on the change and later voted to have the item brought back for consideration in six months. But the possible change ended up on the agenda for this week’s public safety committee meeting when DPD showed more data it says suggests sexually oriented businesses should be closed during the early morning hours.
In March 2021, a “club” task force was created in DPD’s Northwest Patrol Division. The eight-officer task force is meant to tackle increased shootings and other violent crimes after midnight. DPD says this happened primarily at or near sexually oriented businesses that operated between midnight and 6 a.m.
DPD says when it looked at the crime statistics for the sexually oriented businesses, it also included the 500 feet surrounding the property.
Between 2019 and 2021, 11,999 calls for service came from sexually oriented businesses. Over 4,500 occurred between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. From 10 p.m.-2 a.m., there were 2,171 calls for service, with 165 of them being priority 1. There were 2,396 calls for service between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Among those were 214 priority 1 calls.
DPD says that in 2021, the Northwest Patrol Division saw 549 aggravated assaults in its boundaries. About one in five of those crimes occurred between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., while nearly a quarter occurred between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to DPD.
The task force also looked at the division’s three most violent areas, or "beats." Together, the three are home to 39% of the city’s licensed sexually oriented businesses. Dallas has 38 licensed sexually oriented businesses.
“The type of business this is does not matter to us. This is based on data." – Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia
DPD says that arrests involving guns and drugs make up 58% of all arrests between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. They say this figure increases to 63% from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. The arrests have steadily increased during these hours, especially after 2 a.m., the department says.
The task force saw most of its violent crime, 67.16%, occur between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. These crimes include aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder. This year, 76% of violent crime occurred during this time frame. DPD also claims that across all years, violent crime has decreased 29% from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. timeframe, but increased by 80% between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
DPD showed some of its research on the sexually oriented businesses' effect on crime. They cited a 2012 study that looked at the use of buffer zones around sexually oriented businesses as a crime deterrent. The results suggested there were higher rates of all types of offenses in the immediate vicinity of these businesses. It also said these effects were still taking place further from the businesses.
Another study cited said adult entertainment businesses are associated with heightened crime regardless of location, and that studies coming out of the SOB industry suggesting otherwise are “methodologically or analytically flawed.”
DPD Chief Eddie Garcia said, “The type of business this is does not matter to us. This is based on data. We recognize that this is a legal business in the city of Dallas.”
Some have argued that it's only a select few of sexually oriented businesses that cause the crime DPD's trying to clamp down on. Garcia said the legal process takes too long to adequately crack down on the individual businesses.
A lot of this data was presented during the last Quality of Life, Arts and Culture committee meeting when members of the public commented on the potential change.
At the hearing, Vikkie Martin, executive director of the Ferguson Road Initiative, said that when a cabaret opened its doors in the ’90s, she joined others in picketing to protest "this negative business.”
“Why?” Martin said. “Because [sexually oriented business] are crime magnets and detriments to vulnerable neighborhoods.”
Michael Ocello spoke to the committee on behalf of the Dallas Association of Club Executives about some measures that the industry has been taking to combat sex trafficking.
He said he started something called Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking (COAST), which works to train employees in the industry how to spot sex trafficking and report it. He said that clubs in the association are heavily regulated and that there's no need for such a change in the hours of operation for sexually oriented businesses.
Brendan Berrells is the general manager for BioVerify, which collects fingerprints and does background checks for employees at adult night clubs in the city. “The industry has some 7,500-8,500 workers and every one of them has to come through our system every single year,” he said. "We’ve been doing this for some 13 years. That means we’ve processed over 100,000 people.”
He said every one of these employees must have a valid ID that has to be authenticated through the service BioVerify. Once they’ve confirmed the ID is legit, the company takes the applicant’s fingerprints. Those fingerprints are submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety, and DPS then sends BioVerify a certificate showing all of the applicant's arrests, prosecutions and convictions.
Berrells explained, “If someone is under 21 years of age, they cannot work. If this report has a recent prostitution [charge], they cannot work. And if anyone has a conviction for any kind of sex crime involving children, they cannot work.”
"As a policy maker, I want to have all of the data, especially if we’re going to get heavy-fisted, heavy-handed on top of an industry.” – Omar Narvaez, City Council
Roger Albright, a representative with the Dallas Association of Club Executives, said the city’s ordinance regarding sexually oriented businesses has been ineffective since it was first introduced 35 years ago.
“For the first 17 years, the city did nothing but lose. Nobody moved. Everybody stayed where they were. All the SOBs remained,” he said.
In 2003, he helped create the Dallas Association of Club Executives.
“We went to the city and offered a compromise,” he said. “We offered to settle, and we did settle 23 pending pieces of litigation — state, federal and administrative — in exchange for peaceful coexistence. That’s exactly what we did and that has held solid for the last 17 years.”
He said they work in the most regulated industry in Dallas and there are already remedies to deal with bad apples. Additionally, he said this is simply a fight Dallas can’t win. “One of the basis that the Supreme Court has found to strike down these ordinances is that they’re content based,” he said. “I’m gonna tell you, you’re gonna lose.”
Back at the Public Safety Committee meeting, council member Cara Mendelsohn said she didn’t think DPD needed more time to gather more data and seemed to support bringing the change to the full City Council.
Council member Gay Willis said some of her constituents who live near sexually oriented businesses have reached out to her about crime and nuisance issues stemming from the businesses.
Other members didn’t like how this issue was being reconsidered by the Public Safety Committee. Council member Tennell Atkins said this issue should have never gone to two committees. The issue is that one committee voted to bring it back in six months and then decide whether or not to bring it to the full Council. But there was a motion at the Public Safety Committee to go ahead and move it forward nonetheless.
Council members Jesse Moreno, Casey Thomas and Omar Narvaez had similar concerns.
Narvaez said, “What’s going to happen is we can open up a can of worms here if we’re not careful – that if you don’t get your way in one committee, ‘I'm just going to take it to another committee.’ And that’s what I believe has happened here.”
He added, “As a policymaker, I want to have all of the data, especially if we’re going to get heavy-fisted, heavy-handed on top of an industry.”
The committee voted to bring the item to full council for discussion in January.