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Kirk Launius
NW Crime Alert
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11/17/03  Every little bit helps, and every new idea.

Some people pooh-pooh the city's grocery cart ordinance, and they are so wrong.

We didn't get to leading the nation in crime over night.  It was a little loss here, a little slack there and pretty soon the thugs ruled our streets.

When was the first time you saw a street person pushing a shopping cart?  Did it cross your mind the cart was stolen from some store?  Well, it was stolen because grocery stores don't give away their carts and they don't sell them.  You know what else they don't do -- not much to keep them from being stolen and even less to collect them.

When I lived in Oak Lawn, I would call grocery stores with locations of abandoned carts.  The person would take my information and thank me profusely, but  a week later those carts were still out there cluttering the neighborhood and waiting for someone else to start using them as their mobile homes. 

In your neighborhood, shopping carts may not be a problem.  In my current neighborhood, I don't see shopping carts or street people as often as I did in Oak Lawn.  Up here, we have different problems -- not any less important or more important -- just different.
Mary Lou:
     I agree with everything you say about carts from stores. 
    In Mexico, the stores control the cart situation by having a stand in the middle of the parking lot where a police officer observes what goes on around the property where the store is located.  It looks like an observation post and gives the customers a sense of protection. 
   So, it protects the store and the customers.  Perhaps we could start something like that here in Dallas.  Just an idea.

The people supporting the ordinance are not concerned with shopping carts.  It's the stuff street people collect in those carts and how they use those carts to climb over fences and other obstacles to take stuff that belongs to someone else, which they then haul off in their shopping cart. 

When the council debated the ordinance for what seemed like 10 hours, Steve Salazar made a very solid point that no one else seemed to hear.  He mentioned the value of the carts ($125+) took them out of the class being discussed.  The DPD spokesman said they were not so much interested in arresting the cart people, but the ordinance would give them a reason to stop someone pushing a cart full of contraband.      Kirk Launius:

Steve Salazar is correct:

From:  Texas Statutes

"2) a Class B misdemeanor if:
(A) the value of the property stolen is:
(i) $50 or more but less than $500; or..."


Not one council member even commented.  They went merrily on expressing concerns about little old grandmothers who were taking their groceries home being arrested.  It just went on and on, and the only legitimate point raised was that by Salazar.  It would have made no difference to wait a couple of weeks and get it right.

Why not arrest the cart thieves and make it unpleasant for them to be in Dallas?  Well, because the Dallas Managed News and Our Downtown Betters (the ODB) are afraid we might get some bad press picking on street bums.  Word of mouth comments from visitors to Dallas about our dangerous street life is getting around.

I am sick of this politically correct stuff that makes it a bad thing to speak openly and honestly. 

The term "homeless" is such a stretch for the reality of our street bums problem.  These are not people "down on their luck" who can turn their lives around if we spend enough money and hold their hands.  They are either mentally ill and belong in an institution.  Or, they are brain dead from drug or alcohol abuse.  Or, they are just worthless bums who have never tried to be responsible human beings. 

If they can't behave like civilized adults, put them in jail.  Maybe they will decide Downtown Dallas is not the most fun place for them to do drugs, steal anything in sight, defecate, throw-up or panhandle.
Re:  DMN reporting on Greenville Ave. robberies
The Dallas Morning News must also take responsibility for these crimes, as the DMN DOES NOT put even a partial description in of suspects when it is available to them.
As has been stated before, ANY description of a suspect will at least put the public on a higher alert and possible help in the apprehension of the criminals.
   But the DMN, in its effort not to "offend" people, has decided to make race an issue and not print the race of a still on -the-loose suspect unless the DMN "feels" it can help.
   Once again, ANY description is better than nothing as you would agree to if it was you or someone you knew who was a victim.

Back to stolen shopping carts, Salazar asked why the city was letting the grocery stores off so easy.  He said they do little to keep their carts from being stolen and refuse to testify or prosecute when carts are found in the possession of someone other than store patrons or personnel.  He said the ordinance was making the city do work for the stores, and they should be sharing the cost.

Our Mayor and others are trying to follow Rudi Guilliani's pattern, but they are too timid to be successful.  He just went in and did what had to be done and didn't care who liked it or whether he was viewed as politically correct.  Until Mayor Miller stops wanting everyone to like her, none of her ideas will be successful.  She sure doesn't care if her old allies approve or disapprove of her strategies, but she seems to be obsessed with winning over South Dallas.  That's not going to happen.

I love the shopping cart ordinance because every little bit helps, but that doesn't mean the stores can't do their part, too.  The Kroger on Cedar Springs had those kind of carts where the wheels lock if they are pushed past sensor posts at the exits and entrances.  I don't know how well the system worked, but at least they were doing something. 

Councilman Salazar is right about holding the stores accountable for the expense of solving problems caused by their negligence and business decisions, and the council should have listened to him. 

The council never listens to Mitch Rasansky either when he offers new important information on an issue before they vote.  Many times the council could have saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, had they attention to what Councilman Rasansky had to say about a particular contract or lease.  Last Wednesday, they should have listened to Steve Salazar.

What's the point of having council meetings or discussions or hearings if the vote is a foregone conclusion, and the council ignores legitimate points?

A couple of months ago, Lois Finkelman and Veletta Lill claimed they changed their minds about voting for Al Lipscomb to the Police Review Board after they heard testimony from all those Bolton supporters.  Baloney!  They were never voting against Al Lipscomb, no matter what they promised their constituents.  Both have dreams of a mayor's race and saw it as a way to endear themselves to South Dallas.  But that's another rabbit trail.

The shopping cart ordinance is a little step, but let's do it smart.  We should not just fine the street bums for possessing stolen property; we should arrest them and charge the store owning the cart the cost of arresting and jailing the cart thief, as well as the cost of returning the cart to the store.  The new ordinance requires stores to label their carts, but it does not require the stores to assist in prosecution of the theft of those carts, and it should.

If you don't think stopping crime one step at a time is a big deal and you don't get the problem with shopping carts, you probably don't care whether the stores press charges against cart thieves or not.  You should.

You may not understand why anyone would live in an area where people push around shopping carts or leave them in alleys or use them for various nefarious activities.   Thousands of upscale to well-to-do to very rich people live in the Oak Lawn, Uptown or Turtle Creek area.  They live with abandoned shopping carts in their alleys and in front of their homes -- homes in the $800,000 to multi-million dollar range.

They live with other things going on in their alleys.

Crack Alley; A Dallas neighborhood fights crime using placards and protests
 BY MARK DONALD | originally published: November 13, 2003
  For a crime fighter, Peter Fleet seems on the smallish side, his slight appearance lacking a command presence, his reedy voice a bit nervous around the edges. But two weeks ago, after his car was burglarized for the third time in three months, after the neighbors in his condominium complex suffered at least 20 similar smash-and-grab incidents, after the police seemed unable to meaningfully beef up enforcement, after the addicts and the prostitutes and the dealers acted more at home in his Oak Lawn neighborhood than he did, he decided to fight back with the only weapon he had at his disposal: the First Amendment.
. . .  Fleet points to a tattered cloth that is strewn across an electrical wire high above the street. "You see that," Fleet says. "That's a symbol for drug users that crack is sold here." By "here," Fleet means the alley that runs behind his apartment on Dickason Avenue between Wycliff and Douglas. "It's known as Crack Alley," he says, offering a guided tour to anyone who doubts his resolve.
   Fleet's methods might be a bit unconventional, but they bring into sharp focus the mounting frustration some residents feel as they daily confront the crime wave that has put Dallas in the reprehensible position of being the crime capital among the nation's big cities. It may also be a measure of the outrage some feel at what they perceive is the tepid response of police and politicos, who in a news conference last Wednesday outlined their opening salvo in a new local war on crime. These include a renewed crackdown on panhandling, a proposed ordinance making it illegal to possess a shopping cart away from the business property of its owner and "Lock, Take, Hide" signs, which will remind people to lock their vehicles and keep their property out of open view. . . .
"That just drives me crazy," Fleet adds. "The city is worried about shopping carts and panhandlers when there are drug dealers and prostitutes breaking into houses and cars." . . .

Mr. Fleet has his priorities.  He sees a significance in a tattered cloth on a high wire that would not have meant anything to me before this article.  There is a connection between shopping carts and his car break-ins.  A tattered cloth, a stolen shopping cart may be little points, but they become major issues when your car window is smashed and some thief is hauling off your stuff in a shopping cart, along with neighbor's stuff so he can go back and buy drugs in your alley.

We need more police officers.  We need more pay for officers we already have on the force.  Steve Salazar had a very legitimate proposal that would very likely generate some serious revenue, at least initially.  That revenue could be directed toward a fund for hiring new officers.  After the stores got enough fines for not controlling their shopping carts, they would figure out a way to keep those carts on their property. 

See, a little step can lead to big changes.  Little demonstrations like what Mr. Fleet and his neighbors are doing can lead to big changes.  Stopping someone hauling stolen car stereos in their stolen shopping cart might turn up the crack heads who are plaguing Mr. Fleet's neighborhood.

It's important to keep thinking of new ideas for fighting crime.  When Councilman Salazar made his comments regarding the shopping cart ordinance, his colleagues should have paid attention.  If they were unwilling to amend the ordinance to  include his suggestions, they should have tabled the ordinance until the City Attorney could review the possibility of levying fines against stores for not controlling their carts.

You can be fined for leaving your keys in your car.  That ought to work for stores who do not control their shopping carts.

We can't do everything at once, but we should do as much as we can with each new step we take and not worry about bad press or being politically correct.






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8