Dallas Police Crime Fighting Plan Launched at “Nuisance” Store

Business denies city nuisance claim and accuses police of failing to respond

Dallas police Monday launched its new "Starlight" program at a Ferguson Road Texaco convenience store that was sued by the city in July as a nuisance for failing to fight crime.

The store disputed that claim and accused police of failing to respond to calls for help with rampant drug dealing in the neighborhood.

A long-time clerk at the store welcomed the new support from police Monday.

"It's the first time we see so many police here," said clerk Julieta Mejia. "Every time we call police it takes 20 minutes or more, two hours sometimes."

The new Starlight program connects private business surveillance cameras with police headquarters. Officers there can monitor the location and immediately send suspect or vehicle pictures to officers who respond to calls from the business.

The Texaco store at Ferguson and I-635 LBJ Freeway is one of three businesses in the initial six months of the program.

"We looked at the highest calls for service throughout the city and that is how these areas were selected," said Chief U. Renee Hall. "This is the 21st Century policing response to not being present in body but being able to view virtually what's going on throughout the city."

The video is monitored at the Dallas Police Fusion Center in police headquarters with help from computers.

"There will not be someone sitting here watching every camera. It would not be practical to do that. But the video analytics actually have the ability to do that," Dallas Police Lieutenant Jim Lewis said. "The computer is watching all the time."

Manpower and computer capability at the Fusion Center are being tripled to allow many more Starlight camera connections in the future.

"Our goal is to make sure that every business around the city is a Starlight location, so that every place is monitored by the city of Dallas and this is one of the safest cities in the United States," Chief Hall said.

At the Ferguson Road location, a neighboring apartment complex hired its own military style security force this year to combat the drug dealers.

But owner Hudson Henley said police have been making arrests recently to reduce problems at the Texaco store.

"It has definitely diminished and I have to think the Starlight program is going to help it even more," Henley said.

Chief Hall said the Texaco store management had cooperated with city requests since the lawsuit was filed, which led to the decision to hold Monday's Starlight press conference there.

"We thought that this would be an opportunity for this location, because it's one of our highest crime locations, to partner with the city and make sure that we are both responding to the needs at hand," Hall said.

The other two locations for the initial phase of the Starlight program are 7-11 stores in the 2500 block of Lemmon Avenue and 2900 Block of East Ledbetter Road.

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