-By Jennifer Duval, HOA co-president
The Program is Working
Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) is one year in, and its success is undeniable. PSN is a federal program designed to ferret out and eliminate root causes of criminal activity. During its first year, violent crimes have gone down 29 percent. More than 170 arrests of serious criminals – those involved in crimes such as car jackings, kidnappings, gang activity, gun crimes, robberies, and assaults – have been made.
U.S. Attorney Erin Neely Cox, heads the project, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney P.J. Meitl. They lead a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement to reduce repeated criminal activity by focusing on source, geography, and enablement. PSN is an initiative developed during President George W. Bush’s administration to bolster existing local law enforcement programs while hunting down causes of high-crime in identified areas. The northeast Dallas location was chosen based on crime statistics compiled by a Texas Christian University criminologist. Officers involved in the efforts for Lake Highlands include agents from the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County Sheriff, the FBI, Texas Rangers, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The agencies all work together to investigate problem spots and make strategic arrests designed to produce a ripple effect that reduces overall crime.
While Lake Highlands doesn’t have a high percentage of criminal residents, it’s a place where criminals operate because it’s believed to be affluent. There is also a significant immigrant population residing in local apartment complexes and, due to their hesitancy to report crime, immigrants are more likely prey for criminals.
The program’s most high-profile local success is the closing and demolition of J’s Food Mart last November. That location had been a small, but problematic convenience store near the intersection of Whitehurst and Skillman. City Councilman Adam McGough shared video of the store’s leveling during his State-of-the-District message at Oak Highlands Brewery on April 23rd. J’s had long been considered a hotspot for drug dealing and other serious criminal activity.
Ms. Cox also spoke at the State-of-the-District event, emphasizing the importance of community engagement to guarantee the continued success of Project Safe Neighborhood. “We’ve had more than 90 meetings to get community feedback,” said Cox. “We also left doorhangers on 21,000 homes throughout the area.” The doorhangers provide best practices for preventing crimes, as well as instructions and reassurances about reporting issues. “Prevention, enforcement, and reintroduction, those are the focal points for the remaining year-and-a-half of the program,” she concluded.