Dallas Crime Reduction Success with ‘Risk Terrain Modeling' Program

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A Dallas crime prevention program called Risk Terrain Modeling reports success in the neighborhood around Malcolm X Boulevard and Marburg Street.

The program examines characteristics common to high crime neighborhoods and works to adjust those conditions to reduce crime in the future.

The nonprofit Child Poverty Action Lab runs the Dallas Risk Terrain Modeling program.

Owen Wilson-Chavez with that nonprofit said it helps achieve the group’s goal of a 50% reduction in the high Dallas child poverty rate within 20 years.

“We really need to have safe communities so that kids everywhere in the city are growing up in a stable safe environment so that when they go to school, they’re not worried about the shooting last night or they’re not worried about all the shooting, potentially being the victim of a shooting tomorrow,” Wilson-Chavez said.

Along Malcolm X Boulevard there are vacant lots, convenient stores and high poverty. Solutions to help adjust those conditions include better lighting and better code enforcement.

Another nonprofit group, the United Peoples Coalition operated a food pantry and poverty assistance center in a former Malcolm X Boulevard restaurant last year.

“When we were here, why would you rob? Why would you take? Why would you put yourself or your family in jeopardy if those items are here, ready and available for free? It's just the basics,” said Patrick Averhart with that group.

The United Peoples Coalition is still providing those services and it will join with other groups beginning in June for a Malcolm X Plaza this summer on a vacant lot at Malcolm X Boulevard and Marburg to provide those and other services to residents.

“It’s part of healing the community. It’s a part of providing those essentials and making sure people have what they need to survive on a day-to-day basis,” Averhart said.

The nonprofit leaders said the efforts have produced results. The neighborhood around Malcolm X and Marburg reported a 23% crime reduction in 2021 compared with 2019. That’s better than 18% reported in the Southeast Dallas Patrol District and 5% citywide. Arrests were down in the Malcolm X Boulevard area by 59%.

New homes are now being built on some of the vacant lots in that neighborhood.

And a flower and plant business that’s been open for two years expanded this year on Malcolm X Boulevard.

Customer Jameelah Jackson said the expansion is a noticeable improvement on what has been a troubled street.

“The colors are bright. I think this sort of environment evokes a happy experience, happy behavior, positive behavior, which is great for the neighborhood,” she said.

Risk Terrain Modeling is one on a menu of new crime prevention and alternative response activities expanding in Dallas under oversight of the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, which is run by former Dallas Police Chief David Pughes.

“How can we change the environment for the better, so it’s a long-term solution, once again, reducing the demand for 911 calls and police to come out there to the scene because we’ve changed that environment,” Pughes said.

In his 30 years as a Dallas officer, Pughes said the city had crime hot spots that were the same when he started as the day he retired.

“The criminal element, the faces changed, but the place remained the same. So our goal is to go in there and change some of those things, so we change the environment - the community - and make it safer for everyone,” Pughes said.

Risk Terrain Modeling has also been used in the neighborhood around Overton Road and Illinois Avenue. Wilson-Chavez said violent crime declined there by 51% in 2021 compared to 2019.

The plan is to expand the programs to additional neighborhoods.

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