Scott Friedman & Shane Allen, NBCDFW.com
Living near a DPD storefront station doesn't mean you're in a low crime area.
The roof is ringed with razor wire and bars cover the doors, but it's not a prison and it's not a county jail. It's a grocery store in Dallas, converted to a fortress by an owner who's fed up with crime. Thieves have broken in through vents on the roof, and they've destroyed the air conditioner, trying to strip it for copper wire.
The owner, Kay Lee, said the situation is even more discouraging when you look across the street and see a Dallas police substation; the Southeast storefront station on Boxer Street that was set-up to fight neighborhood crime.
"Yes, that's kind of the sad part," Lee said, as she stood in the glass encasement that protects her and the cash register.
There are seven police storefront stations in Dallas but business owners around the Dallas Farmer's Market say they need another and are trying to raise $750,000 to build such a facility.
But, an NBCDFW search of Dallas police reports reveals that the storefront substations are doing little to cut crime with dozens of crimes happening right next to many of the substations. At the police storefront on Bryan Street, there have been 31 assaults, seven robberies, 15 thefts, three burglaries and one sex assault in the last two years. All on just the two blocks that surround the police station. In March, a man was stabbed in the parking lot behind the police station.
Joe Hafertepe owns a plumbing business across the street from the Bryan Street station. In August, burglars broke through a wall of his business and stole almost $6,000 worth of equipment. How much has the police station across the street helped? "Zero, zero," Hafertepe said.
University of Texas at Arlington Criminologist Alex Del Carmen is not surprised that crimes continue to happen around the police buildings. For storefront stations to work, Del Carmen said police need to maintain a constant effort and presence, and in Dallas, most police storefronts shut down at 5 p.m.
"At 5:15 someone will be scoping out the area letting other criminals know that police have moved away and the territory is back being their own," Del Carmen said.
Dallas police insist the storefront approach has helped cut the city's overall crime rate. Assistant Police Chief Vincent Golbeck said officers stationed at the storefronts often get better information from people in the neighborhood, helping them solve crimes.
"Those who work and live in the neighborhood, many of them know who's committing crime, or they have some good, actionable intel they can pass on," Golbeck said.
When burglars started breaking into apartments at the Brackins Village housing complex in Oak Cliff, the storefront approach worked, according to Raeshon Pyburns, one of the victims of those break ins.
Pyburns said officers worked with neighbors to figure out who was responsible.
"The police station has did a lot, I mean, tremendously, a lot," Pyburns said.
It's those partnerships between the storefront officers and the community that seem to have more of an effect on crime than simply having a police building nearby.
"Police officers will not resolve those issues, it takes the community to resolve them", said Del Carmen, the UTA criminologist.
And, simply living across the street from the law is no guarantee that crime won't live on your block.