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Dallas Public Safety Initiative Aims To Reduce Crime With More Street Lighting At Opportunity Park

An eerie dark photo of a street lights and lamp posts illuminating the street at dusk. Many birds hangout at the connecting wires.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Street lights turn on at an intersection in Dallas, on Nov. 23, 2020.

The streets surrounding Opportunity Park in southeast Dallas have seen high levels of violent crime at night. Data from the city shows that's tied to dim lighting.

So, the city added 76 new street lights to illuminate the park in January. As of Monday, the city's crime rate in the area is down 44% compared to the same time last year.

The city's lighting initiative, which aims to improve public safety, was recommended by the Mayor's Task Force on Safe Communities.

"Together we can pull our communities into the light and ensure that the people who traffic in violence don't have a dark place where they can hide in our neighborhoods," said Mayor Eric Johnson at a press conference Wednesday evening.

Johnson said the lighting improvements are a "promising start," but there's a long road ahead. He hopes this effort shows the city's determination to fight violent crime in Dallas.

Last year, Dallas saw a dramatic rise in violent crime, and this year's rate is projected to be even higher. City data reveals murders are up 65% in the entire city compared to the same time last year.

Local leaders say the lighting initiative could help address the issue.

Johnson said it's time to get back to the basics and start improving public safety with basic necessities like light, which will lead to better streets.

"Hopefully we saw last year as one that is not going to be repeated," said Adam Bazaldua, a council member that represents District 7, where Opportunity Park is located.

Bazaldua calls streets with no lighting "one of the inequitable disparities that exist in our city."

"So when you see where the lack of light does exist and where the nefarious activities exist at night, it's almost a welcome for that behavior to occur without us taking any action to change it," he said.

The funding for this program comes from the $7 million that was cut from the Dallas Police Department's overtime budget this year.

The initiative includes a partnership with the Dallas Police Department.

"This initiative will help us address environmental and social issues that cause crime and often we see those issues disproportionately affecting underserved communities," said Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.

The city plans on installing hundreds of more lights over the next few months.

Garcia said it's time to invest in neighborhoods that are hard hit by violence.

The city has also partnered with Oncor Electric Delivery to gather data on dark zones and high crime areas. That research will help inform which neighborhoods could use lighting improvements.

This article was updated at 6 p.m. with more information on the initiative.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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