The Dallas Morning News

Team cleaning up the neighborho­od

Public safety initiative receives $300,000 for blight remediatio­n

- By SRIYA REDDY Staff Writer

More than 21 discarded car tires, seven dead dogs, one stolen tractor and unidentifi­able animal bones were found on a vacant lot on Brashear Street, just a small part of what had to be cleaned up in the Mill City neighborho­od of South Dallas.

“That was all hid in the brush,” said Alendra Lyons, Mill City Neighborho­od Associatio­n president. “This just shows you how thick it was in there that you can commit a crime and hide it and nobody sees it for a long time. And a lot of tires that were being dumped off. I mean, it was a lot of tires”

And this is just a fraction of the 471 vacant lots in Mill City.

The Mill City Public Safety Initiative, which is three months in, has received $300,000 from the city of Dallas and Communitie­s Foundation­s of Texas, for blight remediatio­n to decrease crime in the neighborho­od. The initiative is based on work done in Philadelph­ia.

The initiative is a partnershi­p that includes Builders of Hope, an affordable housing nonprofit; Child Action Poverty Lab; Zeal Developmen­t Services and Analytics, a South Dallas-based data organizati­on; and the Mill City Neighborho­od Associatio­n. The team completed its first urban decay remediatio­n on 11 contiguous lots on Brashear Street late January.

“We started with this because we believe that this is an entry point to that Troy Street area that is a hotspot for illegal activity. We know that that’s not healthy and safe for our communitie­s,” James Armstrong, president of Builders of Hope, said about the vacant lots on Brashear Street.

Next, they will tackle the intersecti­on of Spring Avenue and First Avenue.

Lots are chosen if they are in the intersecti­on of vacant lot clusters in the community

and high crime areas, which Builders of Hope call “hot zones.” Zeal Analytics reached out to property owners for permission for remediatio­n and free remediatio­n management of the land.

Brashear Street“happens to be one of them where those two sets of data kind of collide, so the data makes sense,” Zeal Analytics president Jeremy Connally said. “We have other pockets of this neighborho­od where the data makes sense. Those are going to be the property owners that we reach out to.”

Builders of Hope and Child Action Poverty Lab have also gone to Mill City Neighborho­od Associatio­n meetings to understand community priorities, which also aids in choosing what lots to pursue.

Armstrong said that urban decay remediatio­n is one way to reduce crime with a non-law enforcemen­t public safety solution.

“The lots are a problem for many reasons. Number one, it creates spaces and places for illegal activity to happen. And number two, you don’t see the connectivi­ty of the neighborho­od. Now you’re able to see straight through to Collins, which is something that you weren’t able to do before,” Armstrong said of the Brashear Street cleanup.

After Brashear Street lots were mowed and received new fencing, Lyons said that she noticed less foot traffic and loitering in the area.

“The people, the foot traffic, the cars coming by and just dumping stuff they’re not supposed to, they’re not doing that anymore, which is good because that’s what we need,” Lyons said.

Lyons, an elementary school teacher, said she makes it a point to teach her students that their neighborho­od is in their hands. She often takes students to clean up portions of the neighborho­od when possible.

However, most of her neighbors have given up cleaning the community. Lyons said that many question what the point is. With the new initiative, Lyons said it sparks new hope.

“So you see, when you take an interest in that improvemen­t, that makes a statement about ‘No, we’re changing in our community’ from the inside out.”

 ?? Shafkat Anowar/staff Photograph­er ?? This empty lot lined by a white fence is the first remediated lot for the Mill City Public Safety Initiative along Brashear Street in South Dallas.
Shafkat Anowar/staff Photograph­er This empty lot lined by a white fence is the first remediated lot for the Mill City Public Safety Initiative along Brashear Street in South Dallas.

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