North Texas

Inside a Day in the Life of Fort Worth's Las Vegas Trail

City leaders in Fort Worth have been grappling for months with the question of what to do with the Las Vegas Trail. They started a task force and hosted community meetings about the high crime and poverty rates in the far west side neighborhood.

As the city searches for solutions, NBC 5 spent a full day on "The Trail," walking the streets with a man who knows real change has to come from the inside.

About 2,000 families live in 32 tightly-packed apartment complexes there, and Abdul Chappell wants to meet them all.

"I'm here to talk to you about some resources that we're trying to provide for the apartment complex," Chappell said after knocking on one neighbor's door.

Chappell is opening a job resource center at the Villas del Mar apartments. On this night, he was out asking neighbors what it would take to make their lives better.

"What we're doing, we're going to be providing CDL classes, forklift classes, CNA classes," Chappell said.

Opportunity doesn't knock very often in a community where a steady job is rare.

"People are worried about eating out here," Chappell said.

And crime is on the rise: double the sex assaults this year over last and four-times the homicides.

"But crime and drug dealers come as a result of inadequate resources, no access," Chappell said.

Chappell knows the cycle well. He first moved to The Trail back in 1983.

"Waking up and seeing poverty all the time, it kind of instills inside you a belief that nothing's going to change," Chappell said. "There's no opportunity to do anything. And I believe that the only people that are going to be able to change that are the people that come from it."

As night settles in, he heads to the only neighborhood gathering point, a late-night laundromat run by an old friend who remembers Chappell from a different time.

"He used to be that guy that would rule with an iron fist," said the friend, who answers to the nickname "Bone."

Chappell helped start gangs on the Las Vegas Trail. He started a Fort Worth branch of the notorious Los Angeles-based Crips in the late 1980s.

"In the beginning, it started out as more like a brotherhood," Chappell said.

But it nearly cost him his life. He's been shot six times, and he spent 21 years behind bars on three felony convictions.

"Half my life I've spent incarcerated," he said.

It's a new day now, and Chappell has a new purpose. His past is a debt he's constantly working off. On this day, he and two fellow activists rounded up a group of kids who should be in school.

"Who better to explain to these kids what not to do than somebody who's experienced it?" Chappell said.

But first, he listened to 13-year-old Octavio Ortiz.

"It's a lot of things going on that no one really knows about, because they're not in this place, and people talk bad about people that don't have money," Ortiz said.

Lots of people are talking about The Trail. The city started a new Las Vegas Trail revitalization team. It's a mix of public safety, school leaders and social service agencies focused on key issues like crime, education and economic development.

Chappell is the team's community liaison.

"And I appreciate them a great deal for bringing the resources, bringing the attention and committing to it," he said. "The only thing is that I live out here. I live right around the corner. When you're living out here, where the next 10 minutes could count, the next 15 seconds could be a situation that could change your life, you know. Three weeks from now seems like an eternity."

So he's doing what he can now. After school, kids get a free meal, art classes and a mentor, at his first resource center already running in the neighboring Serrano Ranch apartments.

"There is no off time," Chappell said. "There's no 'I'll work five days a week.' This is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because this is our life."

His redemption is a metaphor for a community striving to lift itself from generations of decay.

"Regardless of how many times you make a mistake, regardless of how bad it might look, if I can do it anybody can," Chappell said.

As night nears again, local pastors have organized a neighborhood fish fry, working to bind the community closer together and inspire a hunger to rise.

"Bring back some sense of unity among people," Chappell said. "We're going to have to set aside our differences and work together to change this community."

Chappell is in talks with the city to try and get some funding, but right now he's doing all of this on his own.

He has a 501(c)(3) called Comprehensive Community Solutions. To get involved, head to: or

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