Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rochester Park Crime Watch

Back in the 1940s and 50s, White Dallas residents and politicians purchased land and created laws that relegated Black Dallas residents to Rochester Park. Unknowingly to the Black residents at the time, Rochester Park was a flood plain, as were many other parts of Dallas. The Dallas politicians purchased land (some of which is now the downtown area), created laws that provided them economic benefit, and redeveloped their land, causing even more flood waters to be channeled to the Rochester Park area. (for more information, see Jim Schutze, The Accomodation.)

(fyi...This area is also known as Bon Ton, though in this blog, I most often refer to the housing development in Rochester Park called Turner Courts.)

Six months ago we started our very first Town Hall meeting in Turner Courts. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, Dwaine Caraway, came with many different city staff and committed to us that he would not allow Rochester Park to be neglected anymore. For the next six months, he agreed to attend our meetings. With the exception of one meeting, he has been there and fulfilled his promise...and even when he's not there, he makes sure city staff people are. His assistant, Stephanie Pegues, has helped us tremendously and has always arranged for whatever city staff we asked for to attend the meeting. Mike Davis, has been an amazing advocate with us and for us--often, I'm sure, when we don't even know it.

We worked toward making changes by stopping the sale of single cigarettes, building friendships, and getting DART buses reinstated to run through the neighborhood. As a result of Wyshina's suggestion when we began the meetings, 15 of us in the neighborhood are now deputized to register people to vote.

Six months after we started, we are now taking the next step.

Though we started within our sphere of influence within Turner Courts, our efforts have now spread to the greater Rochester Park neighborhood. Last night, 13 of those residents came together to begin the process of creating an official Neighborhood Association/Crime Watch group. Sergeant Shelia Zimmerman came to present and brought two other police officers with her (it was truly encouraging to me to see the police cars parked outside and the two officers and one sergeant inside, knowing they were there to work with us!).

After presenting the information and helping residents understand the difference between a Neighborhood Association and a Crimewatch and the requirements of each, residents decided that they would become the Rochester Park Crime Watch.

I credit Sylvia Baylor for working hard to challenge people to come out. Because she no longer lives in Turner Courts, she is not eligible to be an officer. However, Sylvia remains a source of encouragement. She continues to work hard and remains dedicated to helping her friends and neighbors to keep the process moving. Below is Sylvia's email reminder to everyone about their upcoming meetings:

Mark your calendar!!! We will be having our next Roundtable Meeting to elect officers for The Rochester Park Crime Watch. It will be on July 7, 2008, from 6:00pm-7:30pm. The location for the meeting will be held at the After school Academy in Turner Courts, 6601 Bexar St. Dallas Tx, 75215. If you are interested in holding one of the offices you need to be present for this meeting. If you don't want to hold an office, we still want you to come.

Another note to mark on the calendar is July 12,2008, which is the Town Hall Meeting. It will be held at The Lord's Missionary Baptist Church at 6722 Bexar St, Dallas, Tx 75215, from 10am-11:30am. We will be talking about the Rochester Park Crime watch and any other issues that need to be addressed. Encourage some one to bring some one. As many of us know it is greatly need in our community.

Please email me or call and let me know if you are coming.
The growing response we are seeing reinforces my belief that people care about their neighborhood. Unfortunately, so much intentional neglect has soured them on the process. It takes time to move past the distrust and cynicism, but it is happening in Rochester Park.
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