Mill City Community Association wants private policing

By |Published On: April 22, 2024|Categories: South Dallas|

“The first time I called 911 was at 1 o’clock,” Mill City Community Association president Alendra Lyons says, as she looks at her phone. “It sounded like a war zone because there were a lot of shots.”

Lyons says she peeked out of her door after calling police, and saw Collins street “loaded up with cars and people” in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 14. 

She’d heard the loud music all evening, but now police sirens drowned out the partying.

Nine people were shot in the mass shooting at the end of Lyons’ block at Collins and Clarkson boulevards. One person was killed. 

A shooting occurred on Sunday, April 14, 2024, in the Mill City Neighborhood on the corner of Collins and Clarkson boulevards, resulting in one death and several injuries. Photo by Sujata Dand.

“This isn’t the first shooting that we’ve had,” Lyons says. She was born in Mill City, returning to live in her grandmother’s home in 2011. “That location — that was a trouble spot. All kinds of ungodly stuff going on there.”

Gun violence in Mill City is ‘solvable’

Lyons, who has spent the last decade trying to clean up her neighborhood, says the solution is simple: Mill City needs more policing. And, that’s why she’s looking for funding to hire two private police officers who would patrol her neighborhood full-time. 

“It’s solvable. We just need the resources,” Lyons says. “We aren’t coming up with anything new. These things are actually happening in other communities. We are just saying that this is what we need in our community.”

The Dallas City Council created Expanded Neighborhood Patrols in 1991, allowing neighborhoods to employ off-duty police officers to supplement standard patrol hours.

Typically, households pay yearly dues ranging from $200-$400 to pay for off-duty officers to patrol their neighborhoods. The neighborhood groups pay the officers directly.

More than 80 of these neighborhood-funded private patrols exist in the City of Dallas. Most of them are in northern, predominantly white neighborhoods. Mill City is 64% Black and 32% Hispanic, according to Census data

Lyons says it would cost Mill City $1.4 million to employ two off-duty police officers full-time for 52 weeks.

A teddy bear and balloon tied to the fence, remembering the death of a loved one, were removed from a painted fence off of Collins Boulevard on Monday, April 22, 2024. Photo by Sujata Dand.

The high cost of private policing in Dallas

Lyons says the neighborhood association has discussed creating a Public Improvement District to fund the officers. However, while land values have increased in Mill City, Lyons says it’s not enough to offset the costs of funding two off duty police officers.

The Pointe South Revitalization Committee, made up of residents and property owners near the MLK Corridor, also requested off-duty police officers that could be paid from the South Dallas Fair Park PID. However, they were told the additional tax assessment levied on property owners doesn’t generate enough money to pay for private policing.

In 2023, the 630 commercial and residential properties in the South Dallas Fair Park PID generated $233,315, less than a fifth of the $1.4 million Lyons says Mill City needs for full-time patrol.

That’s why she is looking for private donations to fund off-duty police officers. Lyons says Mill City recently was given money from a private donor for 10 cameras to monitor illegal dumping. She says if the City of Dallas had provided the cameras, neighbors would have had little say in how and where the cameras were placed and how long they could keep them. 

“That’s how you control stuff — you own it,” Lyons says.

‘We need the police officers in the community’

Millions of dollars are being invested into Mill City. The City cleaned up and fenced vacant lots. Government, private and nonprofit funds are buying land and building homes. One million dollars from banks and real estate companies will support these projects and more.

Lyons is involved in much of this work to revitalize her neighborhood. But she still believes community policing needs to be part of the solution.

A future Mill City Neighborhood Association housing development site, located at Troy Street, is fenced around to prevent illegal dumping and keep the unhoused population away. Photo by Sujata Dand.

“The police — they are not our enemies. They are part of the community too. We need them,” Lyons says. “They are our community helpers as well. When we have things that are not going right, they are the authority. They can take steps and make things happen.”

Lyons says she understands why some in her community may be hesitant to increase policing. She grew up with a distrust of Dallas police for good reason. Historians note that the Klu Klux Klan pervaded the Dallas police department in the 1920s and ’30s. 

“But, we understand that we need their presence,” she says. “We have to embrace one another and learn to work together. 

“We need the police officers in the community.”

After Sunday’s shooting, Dallas Police say they stepped up policing in the Mill City neighborhood. Lyons says she noticed these efforts. 

Beyond this, Dallas Police would not talk about any additional measures in Mill City like implementing patrol hotspots for security reasons. 

The DPD said violent crime was down in the Southeast Patrol Division compared to last year, and that we could read about the violent crime reduction plan. Residents should call 911 if they see suspicious behavior.

Neighbors like Lyons are still asking for community-specific context and efforts, so we will follow up with Dallas Police.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author: Sujata Dand

Sujata Dand is an award-winning journalist who is energized by change brought in communities in response to news stories. She lives in and has spent most of her reporting career in Dallas, with ample experience covering health care, education and public policy. “I think it’s important to elevate voices that are often ignored,” Dand says. “For me, that means meeting the people in our communities. We need to see people and listen to them. It’s often a huge act of courage for people to openly share their lives. So, I feel an enormous responsibility in making sure my stories are authentic and fair.” Dand worked at KERA for almost 10 years, where she produced several television documentaries, including “Life in the Balance: The Health Care Crisis in Texas” and “High School: The Best and the Rest.” She also headed the multimedia project “Boyfriends,” which examined the complex personal and cultural factors that contribute to the way adolescent girls form and maintain relationships. Her work has garnered several local Emmys and national awards including a Gracie for best reality program. Prior to her work with KERA, Sujata was a reporter and anchor at the CBS affiliate in Wichita Falls, Texas. She has worked as a freelance reporter for NPR and Dallas Morning News. Dand is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio.

Official Title:

Senior Editor and Reporter

Leave A Comment