Police Department Should Cut Loose Information About Katy Trail Robberies

WFAA Channel 8 aired a story last night, reprised in this morning's Dallas Morning News, about a series of armed robberies on and around the Katy trail -- three over the weekend and five more during the previous month.

Both stories said Dallas Police had refused to comment on the attacks or to say whether they are connected, even though they sure as hell sound like they are.

There is only one reason for the cops to sit on something like this. They can't solve it. They're embarrassed. Somebody over them is embarrassed. So the warnings that could save a life go unissued.

The Katy is still a fresh bauble in the city's meager treasury of new-urban attractions, a 3.5-mile jogging/biking route from American Airlines Center to Mockingbird Station on an old railroad right-of-way built between 2000 and 2007. It is enormously popular, which makes it enormously sensitive politically at City Hall.

But it doesn't matter how popular something is. Stories like this series of gun attacks kill even very popular public venues dead in their tracks, just as if these two robber guys had stuck a pistol in the Katy Trail's face and pulled the trigger.

Look at Deep Ellum. The city's venerable blues-bar district is battling back now after a near-death experience, but only a few years ago a series of crime stories -- notably the skinhead attack on David Cuniff at the Gypsy Tea Room in 2005 (see Sarah Hepola's excellent story if you have forgotten the gory details) shot down what should have been a bulletproof urban scene.

Nothing is bulletproof. People are not bulletproof. Doing the math on that is called basic survival instinct.

I'm not saying it's the cops' fault that this is going on. The cops didn't invent bad guys. I'm saying it's a very bad sign that they're sitting on it.

The descriptions of the robbers are strangely opaque. For some reason we don't even know their ethnicity or size or dress. That's crazy. We need to see everything, right away. People need to be warned.

You hate to tell the police: SOLVE THIS CRIME. Why? You know that whole horrible gallery of exonerations we've been looking at over the last few years -- people sent off to prison for most of their lives for crimes they did not commit? That's what happens when the public tells the cops, SOLVE THIS CRIME.

They tend to do it the old-fashioned way -- by framing somebody. You think that's unfair? I repeat: Refer to the long catalog of exoneration stories. Cops are human. We have to be very careful where and how we tread on a matter like this.

But cops are political. The police department's silence on this story is political -- a reflection of something they are hearing or think they are hearing or worry they will hear from the mayor, the City Council or the city manager. That's bullshit. They need to get over it. We the public always have a right and a need to say, TELL US ABOUT THIS CRIME.


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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze