Crime Stats And Recent Horror Stories Alike Suggest That Deep Ellum Is Becoming Increasingly Dangerous. But What’s To Blame For It?
After a flood of stories in recent years that centered around Deep Ellum’s real estate trends, restaurant revolutions and contributions to a rise in Dallas’ cultural cache, the neighborhood’s been making headlines for all the wrong reasons of late — the same kinds of ones that plagued its previous cyclical downfalls and even inspired the famous song, “Deep Elem Blues.”
The news out of Deep Ellum has been pretty scary lately: Late on Saturday night, a 26-year-old woman was sexually assaulted near the Baylor Medical Center DART Station (Dallas Police made an arrest in the case last night); the very next night, RBC and Off The Record employee Michael Moreno was jumped, beaten and robbed at the Deep Ellum Station, suffering dental damage and injuries to his face; and last month, Pierre Mora of Louie Louie’s Piano Bar was beaten, robbed and kidnapped by three men near the Prophet Bar on Main Street while on his way home from work.
But why? The answer seems two-fold.
For one, there’s the simple fact that there’s just more activity in the area of late thanks to the neighborhood’s growth and development. More people in a concentrated area will almost always lead to more crime.
The second reason is perhaps more frightening — that, due to the litany of issues that the Dallas Police Department is currently facing, cops just can’t keep up with the crime. This is something that Deep Ellum at large is being forced to come to terms with: Last month, the Deep Ellum Foundation, along with 15 business owners and several property owners from around the neighborhood, pledged to spend $300,000 annually on hiring off-duty Dallas Police Officers and security guards to further patrol the area during the busiest times of the week.
“We obviously feel horrible for the victims,” says Deep Ellum Foundation executive director Jessica Burnham. “But [this action] shows how united the neighborhood is and how we can find creative ways to fund these solutions. People have told us that we need more [protection], and that’s valid, which is why we launched it so quickly for the summer [when] everything gets busier and rowdier.”
Unfortunately, this kind of privatization of police patrols could be the new norm all around town. Mike Mata, a patrol supervisor for the Dallas Police Department, told CBS 11 back in April that the ongoing loss of Dallas police officers is very much setting the department up for a shortcoming in its fight against crime across town. Said Mata: “It will touch everybody sooner or later.”
Epocha Shoe Gallery owner Brandon Ayala, whose shop has endured theft issues at both its current Main Street location and its former, more out-of-the-way home on Elm Street, doesn’t like that answer. He’s upset that local businesses like his have to resort to paying extra funds just to receive what should be expected police protection.
“It’s like back in the day when you had a business and you had to pay a certain amount to the mob,” Ayala says. “That’s what it feels like the City of Dallas is doing to the business owners in Deep Ellum.”
As things currently stand, however, paying the piper seems the only track a neighborhood in danger can take. Well, along with encouraging those who come into the area not to be lured into a false sense of security by the flurry of activity going on around them.
“We want people to enjoy the neighborhood, but practice normal downtown precautions,” Burnham says. “Don’t travel in dark areas, and always ask for help if you need it.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that the sexual assault and Moreno’s attack both happened at the Baylor DART stop, whereas Moreno’s actually took place at the Deep Ellum Station. The story has been updated to reflect this information accurately.
Cover photo by Kathy Tran. Click here for some personal safety tips from Dallas Police Department.