More than 80 neighborhoods across Dallas pay for off-duty police patrols in a bid to keep their respective crime rates down. As proposed changes to that system have been leaked and the rumor mill activated, 80 neighborhoods are now feeling some angst about the fate of the popular — and effective — program.

ENP is short for Expanded Neighborhood Patrol, a citizen-paid police patrol system utilizing DPD officers that has worked to lower crime in many North Dallas neighborhoods since 1991, when the Dallas City Council first established the program.

There are more than 80 across Dallas, from Midway Hollow to a nascent patrol in Lower Greenville, Oak Cliff to Preston Trails. More ENPs are developing to combat crime and guarantee rapid response times given the current slow response DPD response rates. The ENPs are paid and administered by private citizens through homeowner associations.

In fact, even newly-elected mayor Eric Johnson enjoys an ENP in Forest Hills. Full disclosure: my husband started the first ENP in Preston Hollow, the Preston Hollow North Patrol, in 1991,  and I am a past board member of our Northlake/Hillcrest Estates patrol. For many reasons, I have great respect for and strongly support the private neighborhood patrols.

The private neighborhood patrols also enhance property values, especially during periods of high Dallas crime. And they indisputably help lower crime, as this Dallas Morning News story from 2015 attests: 

In North Oak Cliff, crime is down by about 60 percent across several neighborhoods that have paid for off-duty officers to patrol since 2007, said Russ Aikman, president of the North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol.

“It works because they are proactive rather than reactive,” Aikman said. On-duty officers, he said, are “typically so busy responding to one 911 call after another that they don’t have a whole lot of time just to be driving around looking for suspicious characters, suspicious vehicles.”

That effectiveness is why ENPs make a home and its neighborhood more attractive to buyers.

Melshire Estates HOA

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If you’ve been on social media at all, you have probably come across one of Nick Novello’s comments or posts about the Dallas Police Department. A veteran officer, he’s kind of known for not holding his metaphorical tongue when it comes to hot takes on policing.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Nick Novello.

An officer with the Dallas Police Department since 1982, the former Navy recruit and Bronx-born cop has been speaking out for several years now on critical police shortages and under-staffing in Dallas. He criticized former Chief Brown for what he felt was grandstanding after the July 7, 2016 shooting ambush of five DPD officers. He says does not see Chief Hall as much of an improvement.

Now Novello is writing a book and producing a documentary called “Dallas is Dying,” in a similar vein as a movie produced called “Seattle is Dying.” His premise: Lack of respect for police and policing in Dallas, lack of strong leadership, plus a high concentration of poverty has resulted in unprecedented high crime for a city of 1.4 million that soon, he says, will no longer be just in places like South Dallas, where high concentrations of poverty and opportunity gap persist.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Novello

The city saw evidence of that with a record number of murders the month of May, more than the city has seen in almost two decades.

Novello has acquired a significant following across town — north and south — of individuals he says are willing to pitch in. He namechecks people like Susan Fountain with Citizens Matter, Troy Jackson with the South Dallas County Republican party, investor/radio host Eugene Ralph.

He has spoken to many groups — conservatives, liberals, homeowners and the country club set. He is known in Highland Park, Preston Hollow, and North Dallas. Novello says that some groups have tried to make him a political pawn, but he won’t have it.

He does agree with the Dallas Police Association, of which Novello is a member, who endorsed Scott Griggs in the current mayoral election, and says that Griggs is supporting the facts, but feels Eric Johnson doesn’t understand the crisis. It’s so bad that this week Gov. Greg Abbott offered to make the resources of the state (including the Texas Department of Public Safety) available to quell any increase in murders in Dallas.

The Dallas Police Department is not exactly thrilled about his negative messaging, he said, but they have not shut him up, though one of his superior officers was moved after Novello addressed the Dallas City Council this spring.

And the Dallas Police Association doesn’t seem to be countering any of his claims.

“What’s right is right,” said Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, told the Dallas Morning News. “I appreciate the fact Nick Novello is doing what he feels is right in giving the correct information to the council and letting them know what’s truly happening out there.”

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package

This woman — later identified as Kelli Russell by authorities — was the talk of Lakewood after security camera after security camera has caught her taking packages from porches.

Your boxes of dog poop are a little safer today — the Dallas County District Attorney’s office said the alleged Lakewood (and parts surrounding Lakewood) Porch Pirate has turned herself in to authorities and will be charged with theft.

A statement released by the DA today said that Kelli Renee Russell, 33, will be charged with theft over $2,500, which is a state jail felony carrying a maximum sentence of two years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.  (more…)

Lake Tahoe

I left Dallas last Thursday morning, a beautiful, hot, sunny day, to land in Reno, Nevada for a long weekend of R&R with my family. My son lives in Silicon Valley and Lake Tahoe is about a four-hour drive for them.

We arrived before noon, the western fam arrived at about 5 due to a shut-down on Interstate 80. We put the phones away, got the baby to bed, and were just settling down for a relaxing dinner. My son (who checks his phone probably more often than I do) said, “there has been a police shooting in Dallas.”

And thus it began.

DPD Memorial Squad Cars HQ (more…)

Photo: Dallas Police This porch thief last year was caught thanks to security cameras.

Photo: Dallas Police
This porch thief last year was caught thanks to security cameras.

Noelle Dixon is already down a couple of gifts thanks to package thieves that hit her Lakewood-area home last night and absconded with a shirt for her and a shirt for her daughter. Last year, thieves hit several locations, including homes in Midway Hollow, where two thieves were caught after they tried to pawn the items they stole.

“It happened tonight around 8:30 p.m.,” she told me last night. “We are filing a police report and posting a sign for all deliveries to ring the doorbell.”

And that’s a good idea, according to most every expert I’ve asked this week.  For instance, University Park’s Crime Prevention Officer Lita Snellgrove said that while they have not had any reports of package thefts so far, “many cities are already having problems.” An ounce of prevention, Snellgrove explained, can really lessen your chances of having those holiday gifts stolen off your porch. (more…)

Garages were burglarized and bikes were stolen in the Park Cities last week, and Dallas Police were called in once to help.

Garages were burglarized and bikes were stolen in the Park Cities last week, and Dallas Police were called in once to help.

We’re hopeful that someday, somehow, the Dallas Police Department will figure out a way to once again share their incident reports with the public. Until then, we bring you this story of a Highland Park crime that briefly involved officers from Dallas.

At 5 a.m. on Aug. 5, an alarm sounded from an apartment above a detached garage in the 3700 block of Maplewood Avenue. The homeowner assumed the wind had set if off, but she called police a few minutes later when a second alarm sounded from her home gym.

Two Highland Park officers arrived at 5:15; one approached from the front of the house, and the other came from the alley. The latter officer noticed a car start to pull into the alley and then immediately back out. At the same time, a gate to the backyard next door opened for just a second. Suspecting that there was a burglar on the other side of that gate, the officer entered the neighbor’s yard, but he was unable to find anyone. The other officer tried to help with the pursuit, but the rear gate at the burglarized house was locked. Backup and air support were called in from Dallas and University Park.

Once the futile search for suspects was over, officers discovered wires and empty TV mounts in the gym, the garage’s living room, and the garage’s bedroom. They subsequently found three TVs leaning on a fence near the apartment, confirming their suspicion that they’d interrupted an in-progress burglary.

At 10:30 a.m., a resident of the 3800 block of Maplewood found a yellow Trek bicycle and three Hawaiian shirts near his trashcans in the alley. Having received an email from the Department of Public Safety about the burglary in the next block, the resident called police, thinking his discovery may have been related. An officer took the bike and shirts to the burglary victim, but she didn’t recognize them.

Click through for a roundup of other recent crimes in the Park Cities.

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Neighborhood Watch WFAA

Photo: WFAA

Lake Highlands has become synonymous with great single-family homes, good schools, and young families, but the community is in a state of paralysis as Dallas Police search for  a rapist.

We’re hearing reports of helicopters circling the neighborhood looking for the man who committed one or both rapes that occurred in the last month within the 10000 block of Ferndale Road, just across the street from Richardson ISD’s Wallace Elementary School. RISD has all campuses on lockdown, according to a report from KTVT (CBS, Channel 11).

According to reports from WFAA (ABC, Channel 8) neighbors are on the lookout for unusual activity, but one man has been arrested in connection with the crimes. Still, the report alleges that the attacks may be perpetrated by two different men.

How do you think this will affect Lake Highlands’ reputation as a family-friendly enclave?

MT openingMuseum Tower is complete. No more hard hats, workboots, no sawdust. And on January 10, the stunning high rise opened it’s doors to an elegant, tasteful celebration that was more an open house than a big splash opening. The developers did not land via helicopter on a roof-top pad as Ross Perot, Jr. did when the W Residences opened. There were musical performances by the Dallas String Quartet, Zach Hess and Charlie Kim on the piano, Carlos Guedes on the 38th floor. Delicious catering was crafted by Lombardi Family Concepts, wine and champagne flowed everywhere. I felt as if I were in New York City next to Lincoln Center. It was a New Year Celebration for Museum Tower, a soft launch for a building that has been struggling with an unintended consequence of it’s quest to be the most energy efficient residential high rise in the southwest: the glare that is bouncing off those curved windows and frying the Nasher. Like a performance, event cards were passed out at the door:

Museum Tower is owned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System which represents more than 9,200 Police Officers, Firefighters, retirees and their families.

On Thursday, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System board discussed an offer to sell the tower along with its troublesome glare to Dallas developer Jack Matthews, who has apparently offered to buy majority ownership of the tower from the Police and Fire Pension System. Matthews is an old hand at teaming up with the city on projects, from his Southside on Lamar to the Dallas Convention Center’s Omni Hotel.

I asked several Museum Tower officials if they thought the Matthews deal would fly.

“I think the Mayor wants it to fly,”  is basically what I heard. It appears Mayor Rawlings may have been the one to bring Matthews into the discussion.

Bernadette and Candy

Bernadette Schaeffler & Moi!

But Thursday night, it was all about celebrating Museum Tower. Robbie Briggs and his lovely wife Nancy were there with most of the company: Briggs Freeman was christened the local and national real estate partner with Museum Tower. We wandered in the three designer units by Emily Summers, Anne Schooler and Marco French. The mood up on the 38th floor was one of admiration and awe as people took their drinks to the balconies and toasted the beauty of the city below.

I chatted up one guest in the bedroom of the Schooler designed unit, and found he was indeed thinking about buying.

“These are beautiful, stunning, best location ever” he told me. “They really cannot compare to anything else.”Museum Tower lights

And then I had to ask: does the Nasher glare issue scare you at all away from buying one?

This is what he said (and asked me not to use his name): “Let me say I would have my attorney, or an attorney, pour over the contract carefully and make sure I as a buyer will have no liability from any future litigation. There is that concern, yes. But I think this is the best time to get a good deal, honestly, and it’s a short window of time before they resolve it. And they WILL resolve it.”

Coming up: Scoop from the 19th floor.Museum Tower pool