Dallas Crime Declining, But Some Students’ Neighborhoods Still Can Turn Dangerous

May 4, 2011  

By Ashley Withers

Police lights flashing. A search helicopter circles overhead. A corpse lies on the ground. Though this description sounds like a scene straight out of the popular television show CSI, some SMU students called this home for a few frantic hours in February.

Dallas-area crime hit close to campus on Feb. 16, when a shooting in the Burger Street drive-thru on Mockingbird Lane left two men dead and The Phoenix apartment complex became part of the investigation area. The Phoenix is a popular off-campus housing option for SMU students because of its proximity to the school.

The fatal shootings at Burger Street, which police described as drug-related, are just the most recent of violent crimes in the area. According to 2009 crime data collected and mapped as part of the Light of Day Project, Mockingbird Lane sees a steady flow of theft, burglary, assault and robbery.

Still, the overall crime rate in Dallas has declined over the past decade. And SMU senior Dexter Hostetter, a three-year resident of The Phoenix, said he still feels relatively safe.

“I never had any problems with crime or felt like I was ever personally in danger,” Hostetter said in an email interview. “I think that there were many pros and cons to living there. The central location right next to Mockingbird Station allows for easy transportation but also opens up the surrounding streets to some potentially dangerous activity.”

The 2009 data also shows that another popular area for students to live off-campus, Amesbury Park near University Boulevard and Greenville Avenue, also is susceptible to crime, although most incidents in this area are theft or burglary related. Several assaults have also taken place in the area.

Sophomore Kellie Teague, an Amesbury Park resident, said an SMU student was robbed at gunpoint earlier this year in the parking lot of the apartment complex.

“This was really scary to hear about and since then I have been careful not to go outside by myself late at night,” Teague said. “But, I do still feel safe living in this apartment complex. I do take precautions like making sure my car and the door to my apartment are always locked.”

According to the 2009 data, East Dallas is one of the most crime-filled areas of the city.
A large number of these offenses are petty theft, but numerous cases of sexual assault, rape, and murder have also been reported.

Monika Korra, a member of the SMU track team, was sexually assaulted in this area in December 2009. Korra was leaving a party in East Dallas when she was grabbed, forced into a vehicle at gunpoint, and raped. Korra’s attackers were convicted in April 2011.

Although the SMU Daily Mustang does not usually name sexual assault victims, Korra decided to go public with her identity, and her story of survival was published in The Dallas Morning News last month.

According to the Dallas Police Department’s 2010 crime summary, overall crime in the city is down 10.2 percent from 2009. This is the seventh consecutive year of overall crime reduction. The crime summary also indicates a 48 percent reduction in violent crime over the past nine years.

However, perhaps of most interest to students and their parents, the immediate area surrounding SMU does not fall in line with the occasionally violent trends found in the greater Dallas area. Most of the crime in University Park is residence theft or burglary related.

“I would say that the City of University Park is a safe place to live,” University Park Police Chief Gary Adams said. “Your own results show that our biggest crime problem is theft. We have few crimes against individuals here.”

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