Overall violent crime is trending downward in Dallas. In a recent news release, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax stated street-level violent crime dropped by 66% in areas targeted by the city’s Violent Crime Reduction Plan.
Still, a recent rash of deadly shootings was cause for concern. After two mass shootings that left two people dead, including a teenager, followed by another fatal shooting in Deep Ellum, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson recently called a press conference to address the issue.
He was joined by city officials, law enforcement, and an organization known as Dallas Cred, which helps prevent crime on the ground.
Damion Harrell is a Dallas Cred representative who, along with others, visits several locations throughout Oak Cliff on a regular basis. Visibility and consistency are at the core of their work with Dallas Cred. But it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t just work for them.
“I used to stay in these apartments right here across the street. They know me,” Harrell said.
Many people in the community also know about Harrell’s past. Several life decisions resulted in a 12-year prison sentence. Upon release, he turned his life around for the better.
“I was doing a little bit of everything. You name it, I’ve done it,” he said. “My time being incarcerated, that’s what made me stop.”
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He’s back on the block now but this time to prevent violence and address systemic issues that perpetuate it. Dallas Cred is a group of ten people who work for Youth Advocate Programs. They don’t carry weapons. They’re armed with orange shirts, conflict resolution training, and a lifetime of street credibility.
“They know what I did, what I ain’t did. They know me,” he said. “So, it’s different when they know you been through it and came through it.”
The initiative was introduced in Dallas by Mayor Eric Johnson’s Task Force on Safe Communities. Dallas Cred is an extension of Youth Advocate Programs, also known as YAP. The goal of Dallas Cred is to identify people most at risk for violence and equip them with tools to turn their lives around.
It takes a team of people. They’re a small but powerful group of ten. Eight of them are on the streets making regular contact with the community.
Dallas native, Shavondra Smith often connects with Harrell on the mission.
“I was one of them. I was one of the ones in juvenile, I was one of the ones you couldn’t tell nothing,” said Smith.
On one of their stops in the community, Smith talked to 15-year-old Zachery Armstrong. Armstrong has stopped attending school.
Like Harrell, Smith said she understands how easy it is to go down the wrong path.
“When you’re so used to doing everything the wrong way, and now you have to do everything the right way, it’s a battle,” she said.
They say this is a battle life has prepared them for, and one they feel is worth fighting.
“It’s time for something new, man. I’m tired of seeing these babies die” Harrell said. “I’ve been blessed in so many different ways, even when I feel like I don’t deserve it so, you know it’s just what I’m supposed to be doing.”
For more information on Dallas Cred visit https://www.yapinc.org/News/Article/ArticleID/1117/TX-DallasCRED-Battie