Fort Worth

Pressure for change in Fort Worth's W 7th district intensifies

Business owners and city leaders push for added resources

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It has been a week and a half since TCU student, Wes Smith, was shot and killed. Police said Matthew Purdy, 21 allegedly shot and killed Smith in the 3000 block of Bledsoe Street located a couple of blocks from the heart of Fort Worth’s West 7th district.

Since then, pressure to enhance security in the entertainment district has intensified.

“I want people to know that their voices are heard that the city is not turning a blind eye,” Councilwoman for District 9 Elizabeth Beck said. "I am not turning a blind eye to the conditions that are down in West seven. I've been working hard and continue to do so to make it safe."

The goal, Beck said, is to manage crowds and decrease crime without hindering the economic growth in West 7th.

“There’s no easy fix,” Beck said. “There's no one action that can fix this. It's going to take a lot of small incremental changes to get us where we need to go. But I want folks to know that we are turning up the temperature on those small incremental changes."

This week, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker hosted a meeting alongside Beck, the police department, and members of the West 7th Bar, Restaurant and Retail Association to address crime.

"I was part of that conversation, and fortunately, we have some great owner-operators down in the West 7th area," Beck said. "And I think they are also committed to making sure that they're doing their part to be good partners with the city and make the area as safe as possible."

According to the Fort Worth Police Department, in 2022, West Division had 2,761 crimes against persons. The West 7th District accounted for 183 of those, or 6.6% of cases in 2023. The same area has seen 1,603 crimes against persons. West 7th has had 105, or 6.6%.

In addition to more police presence, Fort Worth Police implemented its proactive model in September of last year. In an email to NBC 5, FWPD said, “"This involves the assigned officers working interdiction-style enforcement in the earlier part of the shift. The interdiction efforts are intended to proactively encounter guns, violent actors, and individuals with gang associations prior to them having a chance to cause trouble later in the evening."

The approach, according to FWPD, has resulted in a total of 108 guns seized, 19 occupied stolen vehicles recovered, and 36 felony warrants cleared.

However, infrastructure changes will be implemented in West 7th in the coming days.

“We do plan to install some both temporary lighting until we can get a more permanent fix,” Beck said. “You should see that as soon as this weekend in the form of portable generator-operated lighting.”

During the meeting, business owners were asked to also take a proactive approach and enhance lighting.

"One of the things that we talked about wasn't just lighting on the city's property, but how they can better light around their buildings to make the area safer," Beck said. "And so, I think that the folks that we dialog with are committed to doing what it takes to make West seven safer."

Emil Bragdon, owner of five bars and restaurants in the district agrees.

“We are going to look at doing exterior lighting on it immediately,” Bragdon said.

Bragdon was present at the meeting with stakeholders. He said he is also on board with Mayor Parker’s intent to create an ambassador program.

"She wants to employ West 7th ambassadors in the area. So, in addition to police force, we do have people in the area that are outside in the street helping any situation. If someone was hurt, they're there," Bragdon said. "They have full body cameras, they have radios, and they've used it in other markets and have been successful with it."

Bragdon said Mayor Parker also wants to implement de-escalation training for late-night employees and

"It's actually through the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, and they want to do a conjoined effort in some training classes for the staff," Bragdon said.

Bragdon and his colleagues said they want to do everything possible to help offer a fun and safe atmosphere.

"What happened, you know, a week and a half ago is absolutely awful. But it doesn't paint the true image of what the area is," Bragdon said. "I've owned quite a few businesses in other markets and stuff like that. And I want to applaud the mayor and the City of Fort Worth. They are very injected into what's going on."

On Tuesday night, the city council will vote on a zoning ordinance designed to control the growth of large bars and nightclubs in West 7th.

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